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Cutting family ties while still a minor

There comes a time for many children when they think life would be better if they cut ties with their parents. This writer knows of one young boy who was so angry at his mom over something that he announced he'd run away. His mom, calling his bluff, said, "OK, I'll help you pack and make you a sandwich." The boy walked around the block before returning home.

That's how such confrontations between loving parents and their children usually resolve. However, there may be times when conditions at home are such that it makes sense for a minor to think about getting out from under. Whether the conditions are right for pursuing this emancipation is something that deserves careful assessment before any decisions are made.

Effectively, what we are talking about here is separation of a child from the parents. In Michigan, the process is not a simple one. Under the law, parents have a duty to care for and support their children until they reach the age of 18. If the child is under the protection of a guardian or other custodian, the same obligations apply. Indeed, individuals under the age of 18 typically don't have the legal standing to live as an adult would.

Emancipation can occur in one of several ways:

  • Operation of Law: Emancipation is automatic when someone turns 18. It might happen when a person younger than 18 legally marries or if he or she is a minor who enlists and is on active duty.
  • By court order: In this scenario, a minor petitions the court seeking emancipated status.

And to approach the court, the filer must be at least 16 years old and must prove:

  • That the parents don't object, or have already abdicated their financial support for the child
  • That he or she is equipped to handle finances on their own and
  • Understands the full implications of being emancipated

Parents need to know that even if emancipation is granted, they still have a legal obligation to support – even though they have no responsibility for debts incurred by the child.

Family law covers a broad range of serious issues and it can be complicated because of the certainty of strong emotions. There is reassurance knowing that you don't have to face the issues alone.

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Cutting family ties while still a minor | Peter A D'Angelo, Attorney at Law, PLC