I am getting at least one phone call or email per day from a teen-ager wanting to be emancipated. I'm so tired of answering the same question that I'm just going to refer everyone to my blog from now on!
Emancipation is called REMOVAL OF DISABILITIES OF MINORITY in the State of Texas.
The Texas Family Code is on-line and can be located by using any major search engine.
Look for Chapter 31 in the Texas Family Code.
Basically, on rare occasions, a 17-year-old (or even a 16-year-old) may be sufficiently INDEPENDENT and SELF-SUPPORTING to be eligible for the limited removal of disabilities permitted by Chapter 31 of the Texas Family Code.
Although the general rule within the State of Texas is that the minor will then have the power and the capacity of an adult, a wide variety of specific constitutional and statutory restrictions based on age will still remain in place - such as the ability to vote or to drink.
One 14-year-old emailed me asking if she got pregnant could she be emancipated. The answer is NO-- she is not old enough under the law within the State of Texas and she does not qualify to even apply for emancipation. Therefore, she would be a minor child with a baby (who is also a minor child). Both she and her child would have to follow her parent's rules. I don't suggest pregnancy as a way to escape your parental control since it won't work!
Under Chapter 31, the child must be a resident of Texas and be 17 (or 16 and LIVING SEPARATE AND APART FROM THE MINOR'S PARENTS OR MANAGING CONSERVATOR);
be self-supporting and managing their own financial affairs.
(FYI: A boyfriend does NOT count as self-supporting!)
The minor must file a legal document, called a PETITION FOR REMOVAL OF DISABILITIES to ask a Judge to sign an ORDER to remove their disabilities. There is a filing fee of approximately $300 that is required at the time of filing the petition, a legal document.
The PETITION FOR REMOVAL OF DISABILIITES must state:
1. the name, age and place of residence of the child;
2. the name and place of residence of each living parent and/or managing conservator and/or guardian;
3. the reasons why the minor child is seeking the removal and why the court should grant it; and
4. the pruposes for which removal is requested.
PLUS: A parent of the petitioner (the minor child) MUST verify the PETITION, except that if a managing conservator or guardian has been appointed, that person MUST verify the PETITION.
IF THE PERSON WHO SHOULD VERIFY THE PETITION IS UNAVAILABLE OR THAT PERSON'S WHEREABOUTS ARE UNKNOWN, THE AMICUS ATTORNEY OR ATTORNEY AD LITEM SHALL VERIFY THE PETITION.
The petitioner shall file the PETITION in the county in which the petitioner resides.
THE COURT SHALL APPOINT AN AMICUS ATTORNEY OR AN ATTORNEY AD LITEM TO REPRESENT THE INTERESTS OF THE PETITIONER (the minor child) AT THE HEARING BEFORE THE JUDGE.
Reminder: The petitioner must pay for the services of an amicus attorney (or attorney ad litem). The prices start at $500 and go up. I've seen $1,500 to $5,000 charged by the attorney based on the amount of work he/she is required to do. FYI: The judge will decide how much work the attorney needs to do.
The court by an ORDER may remove the disabities of a minor child, ONLY IF the court finds the removal to be in the BEST INTEREST of the Petitioner. The order MUST state if it is limited or general removal of all disabilities.
What does the term best interest mean? It is not clearly defined within the Texas Family Code. Basically, it is the primary consideraiton of the court (Judge) in determining the issues regarding the minor child. What does that mean? It differs depending on the Judge.
If a GENERAL REMOVAL OF DISABILITIES is approved, the minor has the capacity of an adult, including the capacity to enter into a contract (such as an apartment lease or buy vehicle). Additionally, all educational rights that normally go to the parent, including the right to make educational decisions, transfer to the minor whose disabilities are removed for general purposes.
IN SUMMARY, the only cases that I've personally seen where a minor's disabilities are removed have been for musicians and sport figures. They need to be able to sign contracts for endorsements, etc.
In 18 years of practicing law primarily in Harris County, Texas, I've only had one teen-ager show up that I thought should have her disabilities removed. After reviewing the prices, she decided NOT to go forward.
There are pro bono (free) services available throughout the State of Texas. Go to the State Bar of Texas website for a list. However, I doubt that most will assist you since their funding and resources are limited.
And, remember, for criminal purposes you are an adult at 17!!