What Constitutes the Need for Emancipation?

Emancipation in Illinois occurs when minors are released from the custody and control of their parents or guardian and legally allowed to live independently and exercise greater control over their own lives.  Emancipation automatically occurs at age 18, unless the minor is disabled, but a special emancipation order can be issued for children between the ages of 16 and 18.

Emancipation laws are designed to give legal protections to those teens who, through no fault of their own, wind up living on their own. Once minors are emancipated, parents no longer decide if or where they go to school, whether they work at what jobs, or even where and with whom they live. The parents no longer have the right to discipline the minor, but they also no longer have financial responsibility to provide support for an emancipated child unless there is a special court order to do so.

The compassionate and experienced Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec understand that when a minor child wishes to become emancipated, it can be a stressful and difficult process for both the child and parents.  Families in this situation often find themselves with questions as to whether there is a need for emancipation and how it will affect them.  We offer a free initial consultation to examine your individual situation and help come up with solutions that are best for both minors and their families.

What Illinois Law Says

Illinois has passed an Emancipation of Minors Act.  According to Illinois law 750 ILCS 30/2) (from Ch. 40, par. 2202), “The purpose of this Act is to provide a means by which a mature minor who has demonstrated the ability and capacity to manage his own affairs and to live wholly or partially independent of his parents or guardian, may obtain the legal status of an emancipated person with power to enter into valid legal contracts.”

The goal of the law is to deal with problems of young people who live away from parents or guardians and find themselves in difficult legal situations. For example, it allows emancipated minors to refuse to be forced to return to an abusive home against their wishes or to be placed in a shelter or foster home.  It also allows minors to enter into legal contracts.

How Minors Become Emancipated

Parents cannot force children to become emancipated until age 18.  Minors wishing to be granted emancipation must first be able to prove that they can to manage their own affairs, that they already have lived completely or partially independently from their parents, and that their parents do not object to the emancipation.

A minor must prove to the judge that he or she is what is considered “a mature child.”  To do so, minors should show that they have a good school or work record and good long-term goals involving work and their future.  It helps to show that they have already taken on responsibilities such as caring for younger children or older people, volunteer work, or religious activities.

It’s important to bring in witnesses such as friends, teachers, counselors, employers or other adults who can vouch for the maturity of the minor.

Minors must give three weeks’ notice to parents that they are seeking emancipation, unless they can first get a special court order eliminating the need to do so.  It will take at least two months for court processing time for a petition for emancipation to be ruled on by the court.

Partial Emancipation

Homeless minors 16 or 17 can get “partial emancipation” for the purpose of acquiring housing in specially licensed youth transitional housing programs.  Minors qualify for this housing if they have been living independently but do not have a fixed regular and adequate place to live, such as in a temporary shelter. Partial emancipation is for the purpose of this housing only, and does not allow the minor to consent to housing in other programs or to enter into contracts.

To become partially emancipated, minors must first have attempted reunification with their family through a Comprehensive Community Based Youth Service (“CCBYS”) Agency and then filed a petition with the Court.  Parents or legal guardians of the minor must receive written notice of the petition within 21 days and must not object to the partial emancipation.  Parents will still have some duties or rights concerning the partially emancipated minor and may be required to help provide support.

Emancipation and Divorce

Divorce situations have some special requirements.  According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/513), an emancipated child under 23 years old whose parents were divorced but who is continuing his or her higher education by going to trade school, college or university can seek contribution for such expenses from either or both parents.


Illinois emancipation laws can be complicated, so if you have questions about how emancipation applies to your situation, you should contact a knowledgeable attorney to be sure your rights are protected. The skilled Illinois family-law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. know the laws, the courts and the system and can guide you through the emancipation process.  We represent and advise clients in all types of family law matters and have a long history of success.

Don’t delay. For a free initial consultation with an experienced and compassionate DuPage County lawyer, contact us online or call 630-305-0222.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]