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How to Get Emancipated in Illinois

How to Get Emancipated in Illinois

For teens to get emancipated in Illinois, they must be between 16 and 18 years old and show that they can manage their own affairs. They should be living partially or completely from their parents and have someone else file a court case on their behalf. A family law attorney can help minors and their families learn more about how to get emancipated in Illinois.

What Does the Term “Emancipation” Mean?

“Emancipation” in the context of a minor means teens who are capable of taking care of themselves can live legally without the assistance of parents or guardians. They get approval from the court to become legally emancipated from their parents or legal guardians and sign binding contracts, among other things. They would not be able to drink or vote until reaching the appropriate age, though.

A child younger than 14 cannot become emancipated, and state laws vary on how long minors must wait. In Illinois, a mature minor who can petition for emancipation must be between 16 and 18 years old.

Emancipation can be partial, meaning that parents retain some responsibilities for their children. Teens may want to seek emancipation for a variety of reasons, including to get married, pursue career goals, and overcome housing or educational barriers. That said, emancipation is relatively rare.

One instance in which emancipation might occur relates to the payment of college education expenses. Parents do not have the obligation to fund their children’s college educations.

If a child younger than 18 wanted to attend college, but had a hard time qualifying for financial aid due to high parental income, emancipation means the student would not have to put parents’ financial aid information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The student should then have a much easier time getting financial aid.

Who Qualifies for Emancipation?

In Illinois, mature minors between 16 and 18 years old may qualify for emancipation if they are self-sufficient and can live on their own. Older teens do not qualify because everyone is considered legally emancipated at 18.

These minors should have a special reason for wanting emancipation. Reasons could include college education, parental mismanagement of the child’s finances, and access to housing. Emancipation is not generally necessary for helping kids handle divorce, but teens might have valid reasons for emancipating during or after their parents’ divorce.

The Illinois Emancipation of Minors Act also explains that the minor must be a resident of Illinois, own real estate in the state, or have an interest in/is a party to a case pending in Illinois.

The Steps to Getting Emancipated in Illinois

In Illinois, teens must ask a family lawyer, parent, guardian, friend, or someone else to file an emancipation request with the court. Minors cannot file this request themselves.

The request should explain the reason for wanting emancipation and show how the teen is what is called a “mature minor.” Points in a teen’s favor include good decision-making ability, a stable home that is away from the parents’ home part of the time or all of the time, a satisfactory work history, a track record of paying his or her own bills, an ability to handle serious responsibilities (having cared for senior citizens or children could show this), and a realistic financial plan for the minor to demonstrate capability for self-support.

Living in transitional housing might not help make the case that a minor is self-sufficient if the housing is unstable or unpredictable. The court wants to see that the minor has a stable living situation or has one lined up. A reasonable financial plan is important because the state does not want teens to turn to crime to support themselves nor rely on state programs when their parents could have been paying various expenses.

Witnesses such as employers, teachers, and other adults who can testify to the minor’s maturity are helpful. The court may take two months or more to process the petition for emancipation. If the parents do not object to the request for emancipation, the petition is more likely to be granted.

As the court considers a petition, it verifies facts such as the minor’s age and residence, and, within 21 days of the petition’s filing, notifies involved parties about court hearings. Minors cannot be emancipated against their wishes, so if a minor objects to the action, the court will not grant emancipation. It still considers emancipation if parents or guardians object, but takes extra care with the situation.

At the court hearing, if the court determines that the minor is mature, of sound mind, that emancipation is in his or her best interests, and that the minor can manage his or her own affairs, the finding should be that the minor is either partially or completely emancipated. If the finding is for partial emancipation, the court will lay out the limitations.

Appeals are not possible for judgments or orders allowing or denying emancipation, whether partial or complete.

Can I Move Out at 16 in Illinois?

Teens can move out at 16 in Illinois with parental permission, but this does not mean they are emancipated. It does not mean the court will grant a request for emancipation, either.

If a teen moves out and hopes to become emancipated, the housing situation should be stable, with no hopping around among multiple places. These stable locations could be a friend’s or relative’s house, or a teen’s own apartment.

How To Get Emancipated at 16

A good avenue to planning an emancipation is to talk to a family lawyer. This person can help you determine your special reason(s) for emancipation and give you tips to increase the odds your petition will be successful. For example, if you do not have a job, your lawyer may advise you to get one. If you couch-surf with different people each night, your lawyer may urge you to seek stable housing. A lawyer can discuss alternatives to emancipation, too.

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