How to Legally Separate a Parent and Child

The laws and procedures to emancipate minor children in California

By Benjy Schirm, J.D. | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on March 27, 2023

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There are many reasons why the relationship between teens and their parents may no longer be beneficial or in the best interests of the child. And depending on your particular circumstances, the state of California may allow a legal separation.

What Does it Mean To Be Emancipated?

In most instances, when the court grants emancipation, all duties owed by the child’s parents are terminated.

This includes the obligation to provide food, shelter, health insurance, medical care, educational assistance, and money to meet basic needs.

The court may order what is known as an “implied partial emancipation,” which requires parents and caregivers to ensure the physical well-being of the child, but allows the child to retain all compensation or income from any source.

Once legally emancipated, the minor has most of the rights inherent to adulthood — for example, the right to enter into contracts, earn and spend wages, attend school, etc. However, the emancipation of a minor does not confer certain rights, such as the ability to purchase or possess alcohol or obtain certain licenses.

Three Ways to Get Emancipated

There are three general ways to get emancipated in California:

1. Get Married

A minor needs permission from their parents and the court to be married if they are not 18 years old.

There is no minimum age for marriage in California. However, anyone under 18 needs parental consent and a court order to be married.

2. Join the Armed Forces

This path would require a minor to receive permission from their parents, be accepted by the armed forces and be a U.S. citizen.

The minimum age for all branches of the military is 17. If these are met, the minor may be automatically emancipated upon entering the service.

3. Get a Declaration of Emancipation from a Judge

To get a declaration of emancipation by court order, five legal requirements must be met:

  • You are at least 14 years old;
  • You don’t want to live with your parents, and your parents don’t mind if you move out;
  • You can handle your own money and decision-making;
  • You have a legal way to make money; and
  • Emancipation would be good for you.

Other Options

If you don’t want to live with your parents, emancipation isn’t the only answer.

Depending on your circumstances, you could also:

  • Seek counseling or mediation sessions with your parents
  • Start a parenting plan
  • Receive permission to live with another adult
  • Seek help from public and/or private agencies
  • Seek a different kind of parenting agreement with your parents’ consent

What Can I Do?

The process of getting emancipated can be difficult. More importantly, many courts do not allow minors to file paperwork on their own. If emancipation is for you, be certain to seek legal advice and contact a reputable and experienced attorney to help out.

For more information on this area, see our overview of family law.

What do I do next?

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