Emancipation is a legal process where qualified 16- and 17-year olds are granted the status of having reached adulthood. It means they can function as adults, enter into contracts, and sue and be sued. Emancipated minors are considered adults in the eyes of the criminal justice system. They are subject to the adult courts and jail for law violations. Emancipated minors are no longer subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. Emancipation, however, does not affect the marriage or voting age.
To attain emancipated minor status, juveniles must be fully self-supporting, have an adequate place to live and be able to demonstrate sufficient maturity and responsibility in order to function on their own—without adult supervision.
Factors to be considered
The following general guidelines are used by the Court in verifying if a youth can be considered for emancipation:
- Whether the parent of the minor consents to the emancipation.
- Whether the minor has been living away from the family home and is substantially able to be self-maintained and self-supported without parental guidance and supervision.
- Whether the minor can demonstrate that he or she is sufficiently mature and knowledgeable to manage his or her affairs without parental assistance.
- The youth must be employed at least 25 to 30 hours per week at minimum wage or more for at least 3 months and be able to furnish a most recent payroll document. (Exception: Other source of income such as social security trust.)
- The youth must have graduated from high school, have received a GED, or be attending an educational or vocational school full- time.
- Have at least one month's salary in a checking or savings account. (Minimum $800).
- The youth must be able to provide his or her own medical insurance or be able to continue under parent's coverage. The youth must show documentation from a health care provider proving eligibility and availability.
- If living away from parental home, be established in a residence for two or three months. The residence cannot be with the youth's boyfriend or girlfriend. (Exception: If emancipation is needed to enter into rental agreement, youth must furnish documentation so indicating.)
- Maturity and responsibility: Youth must demonstrate ability to be on his/her own without adult supervision by the following:
- parental testimony;
- recommendation from reliable adults;
- reports from school instructors or employers; and,
- development and submission of monthly budget.
- There shall be no pending law violations involving the youth.
It is common for the Juvenile Court Judge to expect the minor to come to court prepared with a budget, a stable source of income, a stable residence, and transportation and school issues addressed.
A Decree of Emancipation serves only to:
- Recognize a minor as an adult for the purposes of contracting and conveying, establishing residence, suing and being sued, and recognize the minor as an adult for purposes of criminal laws of the State of Oregon.
- Terminate most parental responsibilities to the emancipated minor.
- A decree of emancipation does not affect any age qualification for purchasing alcohol or the requirements for obtaining a marriage license, nor declare the person to have reached the age of majority.
The Emancipation Process
Prior to filing for emancipation a youth will meet with a juvenile department counselor who can answer questions, guide the youth through the process and counsel the youth on the viability of an emancipation.
Once the youth has decided to go forward with the emancipation application the youth must go to the juvenile department in the county where he or she resides and file an application with the associated fee. The filing fee is nonrefundable. Once the application for emancipation has been filed, the Juvenile Court will assign a juvenile department counselor who will answer questions, ask questions in order to gather relevant information, and prepare a report which summarizes the significant issues and concludes with a recommendation to the judge. The court will conduct a preliminary hearing within ten (10) days of the date of filing. A final hearing will be held no later than sixty (60) days after filing.
Parents are notified of any emancipation proceeding. At the preliminary hearing the youth is informed of the civil and criminal rights and liabilities of an emancipated minor and an emancipation hearing date is scheduled.
At the emancipation hearing the judge will hear testimony, review materials presented and ask questions. The minor must be prepared with relevant documents and answers to questions at the time of the hearing.
If the minor is emancipated, he or she is provided a copy of the Decree of Emancipation and instructed to obtain an Oregon driver's license or an Oregon identification card through the Oregon Department of Transportation which makes a notation of the minor's emancipated status.
- There are some states that will honor the emancipation granted by the State of Oregon, but others will not. It is the responsibility of the youth to research this issue, if interested.
- There is a filing fee which is not refundable.
- If emancipation is granted, it is not possible to reverse the decree.
- Emancipation applications can only be processed in the county of the residence of the parent or legal guardian.
- Emancipated minors are subject to jurisdiction of the adult courts for criminal offenses.
- It is not unusual for parents to want to emancipate their child, however, this action must be initiated by the person being emancipated.
- Per ORS 419B.555, the juvenile court shall conduct a preliminary hearing on the minor's application for emancipation within 15 days of the date on which it is filed or as soon as possible thereafter. The final hearing shall be held no later than 60 days or as soon as possible after the date on which the application is filed.
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