Legalities

Legalities, a weekly column that appears in the Help section of the Southern Illinoisan, is a free service of the Self Help Legal Center. You can visit the Southern Illinoisan website at: http://www.southernillinoisan.com

Q: My 14-year-old son would like to become emancipated so he can live on his own. Can he do this? What does emancipation mean? Can I object? If he is emancipated, can he do everything that an adult can do? What happens when he turns 18? Can he apply for emancipation then?

A: No, your 14-year-old son cannot petition the court to become emancipated under current Illinois law. He does not need to apply for emancipation when he turns 18 because, in Illinois, a person is no longer considered a minor at the age of 18.

Emancipation of minors in Illinois is governed by the Emancipation of Mature Minors Act. The Act states that the purpose of emancipation is to "provide a means by which a mature minor who has demonstrated the ability and capacity to manage his/her own affairs and to live wholly or partially independent of his/her parents or guardian, [to] obtain the legal status of an emancipated person with the power to enter into valid legal contracts."

A "mature minor" is defined as someone who is at least 16 years of age but under 18. Hence, a 14-year-old child cannot petition the court for emancipation.

The Act states that no order of complete or partial emancipation can be entered if there is any objection by the minor or his/her parents or guardian. As such, your approval is necessary if your child wishes to become emancipated when he turns 16.

Emancipation is also not absolute. A court may enter what is called a "partial" emancipation that may limit the emancipated child's rights to enter into certain legal contracts. The court can also terminate or modify its emancipation order any time before the child reaches the age of 18.

Finally, keep in mind that an emancipated minor does not have rights that are inconsistent with other specific age requirements of state and federal law. For example, even if a 16-year-old is emancipated, he/she will still have to wait until they are age 18 to vote.

Do you have a legal question? Write us at Self Help Legal Center, SIU School of Law, Mailcode 6804, Carbondale, Illinois or e-mail us at selfhelp@siu.edu. Not all questions will be answered and may be edited for space or content.

Legalities is written by the Self Help Legal Center, a public service of the SIU School of Law. The Self Help Legal Center cannot provide legal representation. It can, however, help you find the answer to your legal problem. This column is for general legal information purposes only and the advice given in this column may not apply to your situation. For specific legal advice about your situation, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in Illinois. This column is not meant to give legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.