How to Become Emancipated in the State of New Jersey

In New Jersey, anyone over the age of 16 can apply to become emancipated from his or her parents. Practically speaking, this means that your parents are no longer responsible for you, and you can no longer rely on your parents for money, medical insurance or any other type of support. If you are a minor who wants to become independent of your parents, you will need to prove that you can make your own money, and you will need the consent of the court.

Who Qualifies

You have the the right to seek emancipation if you are 16 years old, live away from the family home, and are capable of supporting yourself. This might happen, for example, if you marry, have a baby, start working full-time, or join the military. The court will require evidence that you are independent from your parents and have enough income to support yourself, such as the means to pay for rent, utilities and groceries.

Complete the Paperwork

To become legally emancipated as a minor, you must file paperwork in your local family court. Call or visit the court clerk and request a Petition for Emancipation. You may have to complete additional documents, such as a Notice of Hearing, which sets the court date, and an Affidavit to the petition, which is a description of your reasons for filing it. Complete the forms to the best of your ability. If requested, include verification that you are employed, and thus have the ability to pay your bills and remain self-sufficient. Bring the completed paperwork to the court clerk and pay the filing fee.

Serve the Papers on Your Parents

You may have to serve your parents or legal guardians with copies of your legal papers. This enables them to attend court and object to your request for emancipation if they wish and explain their reasons for doing so. For example, parents might contest your request to be emancipated on the grounds that you are still in high school or enrolled in college, and they are paying most of your expenses. You must file evidence that you have served the paperwork for all the people required to be served before the hearing. Otherwise, the court may cancel your case.

Attend a Court Hearing

In New Jersey, an emancipation is fact-dependent, which means that a judge will examine all the facts and circumstances of your case. You will have to persuade the judge that you are both financially and socially independent from your parents and have moved beyond their “sphere of influence.” The court will look at your needs, financial resources, living arrangements, future plans and any other relevant factors. If the judge is satisfied that you are indeed fully independent, he or she may grant an order for emancipation.

Effect of Emancipation

Once you have completed the steps to get emancipated, you essentially become an adult. Your parents no longer have to provide you with a place to live or pay child support. Since emancipation is such a drastic step, it is typically only appropriate for minors who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. If you are simply not getting along with your parents, it may be worth looking at other options, such as living with a relative, while you gain perspective on the situation.