February 2005
Volume 1, Number 2
Table of Contents
Emancipation, good idea?
By Kara Nyquist, Esq.

As an attorney in a homeless shelter for teens, one of the most common questions I am asked is “Can you help me become emancipated?” When teens come to me seeking emancipation, I always explain to them that there are several Pro’s and Con’s to consider before making the decision.

What is Emancipation ? Emancipation is a court process that allows a youth to be treated as a legal adult before they turn the age of 18. Either a parent or child may begin the process by filing the required papers in court. Emancipation is available in 20 states, but the specific requirements are different for each state. For example, in Alaska a child must be at least sixteen to apply; must be a resident of Alaska; must be capable of supporting himself or herself financially and managing his or her own affairs; and each parent or guardian must consent (although there are certain exceptions).

Emancipation may be beneficial in certain circumstances. For example, Emancipation can help youth, by giving them many of the legal rights of adults, such as making independent decisions, controlling their own finances, entering into contracts, owning property, consenting to medical treatment and marrying. However, emancipation also gives youth many of the legal responsibilities of adults, and it relieves the youth’s parents of any responsibility to care for the youth. Along with this independence comes added financial responsibility and the responsibility for health care expenses.

Emancipation is often a lengthy legal process that takes several months in some jurisdictions. Youth must understand that they cannot get the relief they are seeking immediately and must follow necessary procedures, including the submission of affidavits and complying with the court’s requests.

Kara Nyquist is Director of Advocacy at Covenant House Alaska.


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