I receive, on average, at least one email each week from minors who ask me whether they can choose which parent with which they want to live. I try to respond to these, if possible. Generally speaking, my response to them is that they need to try to get an intermediary involved so that they have an adult listening to them and hearing what the problems are. I recommend mandated reporters--people whose legal obligation is to report child abuse to authorities. Who are mandated reporters? I also tell them that no court is going to allow them to live with the other parent just because they don't like the rules at their house.
The age of these young people generally is from 14 to 17. A common myth is that a 14-year-old can choose. Another factor--increasing in the past year or so--is that the teenager knows that the father in his or her family is not the biological father and the teenager has an established relationship with the biological father..
Finally, today, after receiving an email from a 16 year old who has discovered that she has a DNA certified biological father and that the teenager's mother isn't willing to allow the teenager to live with him, Another man's name is on the child's birth certificate. This is a case where, had the biological father been aware of the 1 year "savings clause" for seeking revocation of an acknowledgment of parentage, he could have filed an action prior to June 12, 2013 seeking parentage. I decided to make clear the law in Michigan regarding emancipation of minors. I don't know what the status is in other states, but will update when / if I can find the opportunity.
Is an emancipation a sure thing? No. The Court may refuse to emancipate a minor if the judge decides that it is not in the minor's best interests or if the custodial parent objects. Here is the general procedure:
A minor may be emancipated from his or her parents or guardian by operation of law or on a petition filed with the court. MCL 722.4a. The judge will order the minor emancipated if he or she determines emancipation to be in the best interests of the minor.
Petitions for Emancipation:
A Petition for Emancipation, Affidavit, and Waiver of Notice can be filed by the minor in the family division of the circuit court where the minor resides. The petition must be signed and verified by the minor and must contain specific facts that comply with the law. The minor must also make declaration that he or she (1) has demonstrated the ability to handle his or her financial affairs and (2) has the ability to manage his or her personal and social affairs. The petition must also include an affidavit by one of a designated list of professionals who has personal knowledge of the minor’s circumstances and believes that emancipation is in the minor’s best interests. A copy of the petition and a summons to appear at the hearing must be served on the minor’s parents or guardian, and a notice of hearing must be served on the person who provided the affidavit.
The Court’s Role:
After a petition is filed, the court may investigate the allegations, appoint an attorney for the minor, appoint an attorney for the minor’s parents or guardian if they oppose the petition and are indigent, or dismiss the petition if the custodial parent does not consent and is providing support. If the petition is not dismissed, a hearing is held before a judge or referee sitting without a jury. The minor may specifically request that the matter be heard by a judge.
Order Following Hearing on Petition for Emancipation: If the court must issue an Order of Emancipation if, after hearing, the court determines that emancipation is in the minor’s best interests and the minor establishes that
- (a) The minor’s parent or guardian does not object to the petition or the parent or guardian objecting is not providing financial support for the minor.
- (b) The minor is at least 16 years old.
- (c) The minor is a state resident.
- (d) The minor can manage his or her own financial affairs and personal affairs.
- (e) The minor understands his or her responsibilities as an emancipated youth.
It is important to note that the order of emancipation may be rescinded by the family division of the circuit court on a petition brought by the minor or his or her parent or guardian.
The Michigan law governing emancipation can be read here: Download Michigan Law Regarding Emancipation of Minors
Forms for this process are here: