An emancipated minor is a child who has been granted the status of adulthood by a court order or other formal arrangement. This status is not automatically bestowed on minors who have simply moved away from their parents' homes, however. The majority of legally emancipated minors are working teenagers who have demonstrated the ability to support themselves financially. For example, a professional actress or musician who is at least 14 years old is more likely to be considered an emancipated minor than a runaway who works part-time for minimum wage.
In many countries when a child reaches what is known as the age of majority — often 18 years old — he or she is said to be fully emancipated from parental control. This means that he or she can enjoy all the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood, such as voting, marriage and financial independence. For certain children who are younger than this age, however, adult-level responsibilities and independence are already a reality, and many of them have become emancipated minors.
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In many countries, such as the United States, there are three main ways for a teenager to become emancipated. The first method is to demonstrate to a court that he or she is financially independent and that his or her parents or legal guardians have no objections to his or her living arrangements. A petition usually is filed in a family court, and the judge can decide whether to approve it. This decision is often left up to a judge in order to prevent disgruntled teenagers from arbitrarily leaving their homes and declaring themselves to be emancipated. Becoming an emancipated minor through financial independence is often not a matter of separating from parents but rather a means for successful teens to protect their assets.
Another common way to earn emancipated minor status is to become legally married. This option typically does not supersede other laws governing the age of consent to marry, however. For example, a 12-year-old girl who is seeking emancipated minor status cannot become legally married until she has reached the age of consent where she lives. If the law allows someone who is younger than the age of consent to marry with parental consent, then it would be possible for that child to marry and become an emancipated minor.
A third means of becoming an emancipated minor is to enlist in the military. This has become increasingly difficult in many places because of policies concerning educational, age and other requirements. During times when a military organization is in greater need of personnel, these requirements might be waived or lowered, allowing a minor to enlist more easily. After a minor is officially inducted into military service, he or she is typically is automatically granted emancipated minor status.