Written by Jonathan Breeden
Emancipation is the process for someone younger than 18 to be legally considered an adult. North Carolina has specific requirements and considerations for individuals seeking emancipation.
Emancipated minors have the same legal consideration as older adults. Once an individual becomes emancipated, their parents are no longer legally or financially responsible.
An emancipated minor may enter contracts, file court cases, or any other legal action. However, emancipation does not change the age requirements for specific activities, such as voting, joining the military, or buying alcohol.
If a minor successfully petitions for emancipation, parents (whether married, separated, or divorced) no longer have a legal obligation to support them. Court-ordered child support stops when a minor becomes a legal adult. Emancipated minors do not have to live with the primary custodial parent.
However, the loss of child support of an emancipated minor may impact other children. A judge may consider this when deliberating whether to grant a decree of emancipation.
The following are requirements for seeking emancipation through the court in North Carolina.
Under North Carolina law, a minor may seek emancipation in two ways.
An individual younger than 18 automatically becomes emancipated if they marry. There is no need to go to court; a legal marriage certificate is enough documentation.
An unmarried minor aged 16 or older can file a petition for a judicial decree of emancipation. There is a hearing in which the judge considers all evidence and testimony.
Granting a judicial decree of emancipation is not a trivial task. A judge must be reasonably sure that the minor will not suffer financially or personally.
North Carolina § 7B-3504 contains seven considerations of emancipation for judges to follow.
Another factor for the court to consider is parental coercion or interference. A supporting parent (the one paying child support) might encourage a minor to seek emancipation. The parent receiving the support would likely oppose emancipation to avoid the loss of child support.
Individuals ages 16 or 17 who have lived in North Carolina (or its federal territories) for the previous six months may file for emancipation.
The minor seeking emancipation files a petition with the district court in the North Carolina county where they reside.
North Carolina § 7B-3501 requires that all emancipation petitions contain the following:
The petition must include a copy of the minor’s birth certificate, plus an earnings statement from the petitioner’s employer, if applicable.
Parents are considered necessary parties when a minor files for emancipation. The court sends a copy of the petition and a summons with the hearing’s date, time, and location. Parents (or legal guardians) have 30 days to respond.
In addition to the considerations outlined in North Carolina § 7B-3504, the judge may ask the petitioner to provide:
Both the petitioner and the parents may provide evidence and testimony at the court hearing.
A judge may rule in favor of granting emancipation if the following conditions are satisfied:
Talk to an experienced North Carolina divorce attorney with the Breeden Law Office to learn more about how emancipation affects child custody and child support.