Child Emancipation

Child emancipation is the legal process by which a child is freed from the authority of his or her parents, and the parents are generally relieved of their duty of support and other responsibilities in connection with the child, prior to the child reaching the age of majority.  Why enjoy your teenage years when you can jump right into adulthood?  

What's the age of majority in North Carolina anyways?

Anyone who is below the age of eighteen years has not reached the age of majority and is considered a minor under NCGS 48A-2.  

Do parents even have an obligation to support their child?

Of course, otherwise the state of NC would have no legal recourse if a parent abandoned their child.  The recourse the state does have is one of subjecting a parent to civil liability for failing to support their child, see NCGS 50-13.8.  The duty to support your child ends, just like in a child support matter*, when a child reaches the age of majority or is emancipated.  *Caveat on the child support portion of that can be found here

What about a parent's right to supervision and control of a child?  Is there such a thing?  

Yes, what the "juvenile code" under chapter 7B-Article 34 of the NCGS says is that "a parent, guardian, custodian, or person who has assumed the status and obligation of a parent without being awarded legal custody of the juvenile by a court can assert their right to control of the juvenile by filing a civil action in the district court of the county where the juvenile can be found or the county of the plaintiff's residence."

Basically, if a parent, guardian, etc. has been caring for a child, whether their child or, for example, a relative's child and the child runs away from home and refuses to comply with the directions of the parent, guardian, etc. then the parent, etc. can file a Complaint asking the court to enter a Judgment outlining that they are the child's legal guardian and that the child must submit himself/herself to the guardian's control.  Failure by the child, or any other listed Defendant, to comply with the judgment/order would be a violation of the court order and subject the Defendant to contempt.  That's apparently how you take care of an extremely unruly child.  

How do I know if I am eligible for an emancipation?

The first thing that must be done is to determine if the child is eligible by statute to file an emancipation petition.  Under NCGS 7B-3500 a juvenile must be 16 years of age or older in order to petition for emancipation.  Sorry to burst you teenager's bubbles, but you have to try to get along with your parents until you're 16.  

There is also the requirement that the petitioning juvenile must have resided in the same county or federal territory within North Carolina for six months in order to petition for emancipation.  

I'm eligible, how do I start an emancipation?

As with any lawsuit, there is a petition/complaint and summons.  For emancipation purposes a Petition will be filed.  NCGS 7B-3501 outlines the requirements for a valid petition.  Once the requisite information is stated in the petition for emancipation and filed along with a summons, it must be properly served with the summons on the respondents (petitioner's parent, guardian, or custodian).

From service of the petition and summons there will be a hearing held under NCGS 7B-3503.  The court will consider a plethora of factors before they will issue a ruling on the emancipation.  Those factors can be found under NCGS 7B-3504 here.  The factors are mainly concerned with why the petitioner is seeking emancipation and, if granted, what the petitioner is going to do for basic human needs (food, shelter, job, etc.).

I'm emancipated, I immediately regret this decision, can I reverse it?

Tired of adulting already?  Well, you have an uphill battle in undoing your emancipation because you have to appeal the final decree of emancipation to the NC Court of Appeals.  The notice of appeal may be given orally in open court at the hearing (that would be awkward) or in writing within 10 days of entry of the order.

Pending disposition of an appeal, the court may enter a temporary order affecting the custody or placement of the petitioner as the court finds to be in the best interests of the petitioner or the State.

*Nothing in this blog post should be construed as establishing an attorney-client relationship or as this firm giving you legal advice.