New Jersey high school senior Rachel Canning generated media waves in early 2014 with a lawsuit against her parents for financial support and college tuition. The teenager claimed her family kicked her out of the home and that she was unable to financially support herself. Ms. Canning’s lawsuit asked her parents to pay the remainder of her private school tuition, living and transportation expenses, upcoming college tuition, and legal fees for the lawsuit filed against them.
The case drew several topics of discussion, such as intervention of courts in family matters, the implications of children suing parents, the tragedy of a family conflict getting national media attention, etc. One issue we find particular interesting is “emancipation” or the freeing of a child from parental legal responsibility. Each state has its own rules and this blog post discusses Minnesota’s emancipation laws.
Emancipation in Minnesota
Minnesota children under the age of 18 who get permission to live alone and be independently responsible are considered “emancipated.” Parents of emancipated children give up their right to control the child, who in turn gives up the right to be financially supported by the parents.
In Minnesota, children can legally be emancipated but there is no statutory definition for what emancipation is, nor does Minnesota have a specified emancipation procedure for minors to follow. Courts can use their discretion in declaring a child emancipated after considering several factors such as the minor’s living situation, any implied or express consent by the parents, and certain acts done by either the minor child or the parents. Each case is evaluated individually and not handled in a generalized manner. Emancipation is triggered by certain events:
- A child turning 18 years old
- A child lawfully marrying
- Implied or express parental consent
- Emancipation by court order
Rights of Emancipated Minors
Emancipated children are not considered adults under Minnesota law. Children cannot become adults until they are 18 years old, even when emancipated. This means juvenile laws still apply to emancipated minors. It also means children cannot do certain things like buy cigarettes or alcohol, avoid curfew laws, or vote until turning the appropriate age. Although emancipated children are still subject to the law based on their age, Minnesota law recognizes their ability to act independently in many scenarios such as:
- Declining immunizations based on religious beliefs (Minn. Stat. §121A.15, subd. 3(d))
- Owning a passenger automobile or truck (Minn. Stat. §168.101, subd. 1)
- Being eligible for General Assistance (Minn. Stat. §256D.05, subd. 1(a)(10))
The reasons for seeking emancipaton can vary, and may stem from an abusive or neglecting home. For those seeking additional information about juvenile law and education, here are some helpful resources:
- Children’s Law Center of Minnesota
- Department of Human Services Children Information
- Youth Law and Education
Christopher Keyser is an attorney at Keyser Law, P.A. He practices criminal and juvenile defense in Minnesota with offices in Minneapolis and Stillwater. You can reach Christopher directly at 612-338-5007.