How to Get Emancipated in Illinois

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Emancipation occurs when a minor asks a court to deem her responsible for making decisions her parents would typically make. If an Illinois court grants the emancipation, the minor assumes adult status before reaching the age of 18. Emancipation allows a minor in Illinois to engage in some adult behavior, like entering into contracts or making medical decisions independently. However, an emancipated minor in Illinois still cannot engage in age-restricted behavior such as voting or purchasing alcohol until he reaches the age required by state law.

  • Reach the age of 16. A minor cannot petition the court until he reaches the age of 16. Because minors are automatically emancipated at age 18, only minors aged 16 and 17 years are eligible to ask the court for emancipation. These 16- and 17-year-olds are called "mature minors."

  • Petition the court for emancipation. A petition is a document you file with the court asking for an emancipation and setting forth the reasons an emancipation is warranted. The petition should be filed in the court for the county where you live. You technically can do this on your own, but it is probably a good idea to hire an attorney to draft the petition and represent you at the emancipation hearing. If you do not have the money to hire an attorney, the free legal aid office in your community may be able to help. Contact the Illinois Bar Association by phone or online for information about free legal services in your community (see Resources).

  • Tell the court why you should be emancipated. In the petition, you must tell the court why emancipation is warranted. Illinois law will allow emancipation when a mature minor proves to the court that she is able to provide for herself materially and financially and is able to make responsible decisions.

  • Give notice to your parents or guardians. Once the petition is filed, you have 21 days to give notice to your parents or guardians that you are asking for emancipation. Notice is given by serving the petition to your parents. There are many ways to serve the petition to your parents. You may do it personally, have your attorney perform service or have the sheriff perform service. The best way to serve the petition will depend on your specific situation. The clerk of the court or your attorney will have information about service.

  • Go to the hearing. At the hearing the judge will ask you to provide evidence that you are able to provide both financially and materially for yourself and that you are responsible enough to make your own decisions. You should present evidence that you have a source of income, a place to live and that you are capable of making decisions on your own. The testimony of teachers, other family members, employers and acquaintances will help show the judge that you are mature.

  • Obtain emancipation. If the judge agrees that you meet the requirements for emancipation, she will issue an order that officially emancipates you from your parents or guardians. You should keep a copy of the order with you and present it any time you are acting as an adult, such as when you sign a lease or enter into another kind of contract.

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