Adolescence is a momentous transition from childhood to adulthood, characterized by unique biological, cognitive, emotional, and social shifts. In some cases, adolescents need to function as adults before reaching the majority age.
Although Alabama permits minor emancipation, the state only does so under narrow circumstances. In addition to the implications on the emancipated minor, emancipation also impacts child support obligations. Accordingly, it is vital that minors contemplating emancipation consult with an Alabama family law attorney to learn about their options.
Emancipation in Alabama
Emancipation laws vary by state, with limited guidance from federal law. Typically, until a child reaches the age of majority, which is 19 in Alabama, the law requires their parents to provide them with food, shelter, and clothing. In addition, parents retain decision-making authority over where their children attend school and the type of medical care they receive.
Generally, the emancipation of a minor refers to the legal process through which a minor becomes self-supporting, assumes responsibility for their own well-being, and is no longer under the care of their parents or guardians.
In Alabama, several juvenile courts can relieve minors over 18 from the “disabilities of nonage.” Once a court grants an emancipation petition, the individual’s parent or guardian no longer has a say over the minor’s life.
Emancipation Age in Alabama
These exceptions include the following:
- To obtain an educational loan, the age of majority is 17 in Alabama;
- Alabama law considers any member of the Armed Forces of the United States an adult who can contract with a financial or loan institution.
Further, minors 15 years or older in Alabama can contract life, health, accident, and annuity insurance. However, the law does not bind them by any unperformed agreements to pay a premium.
Moreover, minors who are 14 years old or over can sue through a personal representative, guardian ad litem, or next friend. Finally, Alabama law provides that minors 14 years old or older or those who have graduated high school, are married, divorced, or are pregnant may consent to lawful medical treatment.
Emancipation Laws in Alabama
Alabama’s emancipation process is governed by statute and can only occur once a minor reaches 18. Broadly, Alabama looks to the “best interests of the child” when deciding whether to grant an emancipation petition. The state does not maintain set criteria or specific guidelines when making these determinations.
However, some general factors the court may consider are the minor’s:
- Financial support,
- Living situation,
- Decision-making capability,
- Pregnancy, and
In Alabama, an 18-year-old can petition for emancipation under the following situations:
- The minor’s parent petitions the court for emancipation;
- The minor does not have a living parent or guardian, or only has a living parent that is insane or abandoned the minor for at least a year; or
- The minor has no living parent or has a living parent that is insane or has abandoned them for a year—and the minor has a guardian that filed the emancipation petition.
If the court does not find that emancipation is appropriate, it may appoint a guardian or advise the parties of other alternatives.
Child Support After Emancipation
In very limited cases, courts may require parents to pay child support after their child reaches 19 years old. Typically, these cases arise when the child has special needs or is still enrolled in high school. However, emancipated minors no longer have the legal right to secure child support or other financial support from their parents or guardians.
When a child support order addresses multiple children, parents may face challenges determining how much support to pay. It is important that parents consult with a lawyer to ensure that their partial termination order accurately reflects emancipation. Parents who violate a child support order may face serious penalties.
Rights After Emancipation in Alabama
If the court grants emancipation, the minor may receive the following rights:
- Right to choose their school,
- Right to purchase and sell real estate,
- Right to enter into legally binding contracts, and
- Right to sue others.
These benefits allow the emancipated minor to live and work without the interference of a parent or guardian.
Limitations on Emancipated Minors
It is important to note that emancipated minors cannot engage in all the rights of adulthood. For instance, emancipated minors in Alabama cannot purchase alcohol until reaching the age of 21 years. Emancipated minors who violate these laws may risk the revocation of their emancipation rights.
Learn More About the Process of Alabama Emancipation and How it Impacts Child Support Obligations
If you are in the process of going through an Alabama divorce, and have an emancipated child or a child who intends on becoming emancipated, it is important to reach out to an experienced divorce lawyer to determine how this could impact your child support obligations.
At The Law Offices of Charlotte Christian and Associates, we pride ourselves in helping men and women through the difficult process of divorce, as well as all the divorce-related issues they must confront along the way. Our focus is always on you and ensuring that you obtain a fair result.