Emancipation – Removing the Disabilities of Minority

In most states you are considered a “child” when you are a minor, which is when a person is under the age of eighteen, and minors are generally not allowed to make adult decisions. Parents or guardians are usually the ones that make the decisions about where a child lives, goes to school, and medical issues etc. In Texas, the difference between adults’ rights and the rights of  minors are called “disabilities of minority”. This is also commonly referred to in other states as “emancipation”. Each jurisdiction may have various rules and guidelines that must be followed. Please consult with an attorney in your location to determine whether or not the disabilities of a minor can be removed, or whether the minor child can become emancipated from their parents or guardians.

Many of you have probably heard a teenager state that they don’t have to listen to their parents rules and will just become “emancipated” and do what they want and live on their own with no rules. However, it is not that easy for a minor to have their disabilities removed though emancipation. Texas laws specifically set out structured guidelines of what a minor can do, in limited circumstances, to become an “adult” and have their disabilities as a minor removed. The guidelines for emancipation or “Removal of Disabilities of Minority” are located in Chapter 1 of  the Texas Family Code.

Emancipation in Texas

If an individual were to meet certain, specific requirements and are then able to convince a Judge that it would be in their best interest, Texas law would allow a minor to have their disabilities removed. If the disabilities of a minor are removed, the person would be considered an adult for most, but not all, legal purposes. This means that parents or guardians would no longer make decisions regarding residency or education, nor do they have to provide food, shelter, or even medical support for the minor whose disabilities have been removed. Emancipation of a minor does NOT give that person the right to leave school, drive, vote, or buy alcoholic beverages or tobacco – as some of these items have Constitutional and statutory age requirements which would not change.

To be eligible to go to court and file the initial pleadings to ask a judge to remove your disabilities of minority you must be:

  1. a resident of Texas,
  2. either 17 years old or at least 16 years of age and living separately from parents or guardians, and
  3. must be financially self-supporting.

What Does All This Mean?

Generally, these requirements would require that the minor be able to fully support themselves 100% without assistance AND that they have enough history of doing so successfully in order to convince a court that the removal of disabilities is in the minor’s best interest. So, the minor will need to have a job AND show a steady history of employment which would show the court that the minor is able to solely provide sufficient income to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, health insurance, food, shampoo, and all other necessities WHILE still making decent grades in school. If the parents or guardians of a minor that successfully obtains an order of emancipation form the Court granting the removal of disabilities of the minor and the parent or guardian received child support for that minor, neither the minor nor the parent or guardian would continue to receive that child support. Another thing to take into consideration is that even if a minor is living away from your parent or guardian, but are living with another adult who is helping the minor with any of the above, then the minor would not likely qualify for the removal of their disabilities as a minor.

In order for a Judge to make a decision about whether removing a minor’s disabilities of minority would be in their best interest, they may ask about the following: what are future plans for education, career, and how will they pay for housing, transportation, food and medical expenses.

Note: There are two occurrences in which a person would not need to obtain an order from a Court for emancipation as the disabilities of minority are automatically removed, to wit:

  1. If a minor marries with parental consent but is still under the age of eighteen
  2. If a minor enlists in the military.

However, having a child as a person under the age of eighteen does NOT automatically remove the disabilities of a minor.

As always, please consult an attorney to determine whether or not you, or someone you love, are eligible for emancipation and the removal of their disabilities of minority. If you would like to see this Family Code Statute in its entirety, you can go to //www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us.