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Can a child under 18 become a legal adult?

| May 21, 2020 | Child Custody

In New Jersey, minors are legally considered children until turning 18. This means that a teenager will not be able to sign a legally binding contract or engage in any activities that require a parent’s permission without obtaining their consent. This can be very limiting for teenagers who do not have the support of their parents.

In some situations, however, teenagers can go through the process of emancipation so that they can legally become an adult before their 18th birthday. This can help teenagers to get their own accommodations and live independently of their parents sooner. It will also mean that they will become financially independent.

In what situation could emancipation be a good decision?

If a teenager’s parents are financially supportive and not abusive in any way, emancipation likely will not do much good. However, if a teenager is financially independent from their parents, legally married or suffering neglect or abuse, emancipation could lead toward a better life.

How does the emancipation process work in New Jersey?

It is possible to get emancipated without going through the courts, but to do this teenagers will need the permission of a parent or legal guardian. If a teenager is over the age of 17 and joins the military, it is also possible to get emancipated without going through the courts.

If a teenager does not have the permission of their parents and has not joined the military, they will likely need to file for a declaration of emancipation in court. The court will then take into account all of the information provided to them. The court will consider whether the teenager:

  • Is financially independent
  • Will have a stable living situation
  • Is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of being an adult
  • Has a high school diploma or is currently enrolled in school

How much does it cost to be emancipated?

The courts will charge a filing fee of between $150 to $200. Other fees may also be applicable to have the best possible chance of being successful.

Filing for emancipation in New Jersey is not a process to take lightly. Whether you are a teenager considering your options or a parent worried about your child, think carefully about the process ahead and whether it is right for you.