Emancipation in Virginia
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the age of majority (or, the age at which the state considers you an adult) is 18 years old. Until you are 18, you are under the custody and control of your parents or legal guardians.
Emancipation is a legal status available to minors that allows them to attain most of the freedoms (and associated responsibilities) of adulthood prior to reaching the age of majority.
Who Qualifies for Emancipation in Virginia?
In order to petition a Virginia court for emancipation, you must be at least 16 years of age. You must also meet one of the four following circumstances:
- You have entered into a valid marriage.
- Prior to reaching the age of majority (or becoming emancipated), you will need your parents’ consent to get married.
- You are on active duty with any of the armed forces of the United States.
- Prior to reaching the age of majority (or becoming emancipated), you will need your parents’ consent to join the armed forces.
- You willingly live separate and apart from your parents, with the consent of your parents, and you are capable of supporting yourself and competently managing your own financial affairs.
- You must be able to show that you have the ability to earn enough money to fully support yourself, as well as the ability to competently use that money. It is not in the best interest of you or the Commonwealth to release you from your parents’ care if you will then require public funds to support yourself.
- You plan to be married and meet the requirements outlined in Va. Code Sec. 16.1-333.1.
- These requirements mostly ensure that getting married is your choice, that you are mature enough to decide to get married, and that your safety is not being compromised by the marriage.
How Do I Begin the Emancipation Process?
Either you or your parent/guardian must file a petition in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court for your county. The petition will contain information about you and your parents/legal guardians (as well as your intended spouse, if applicable). The petition is also where you will tell the judge why you believe you are eligible to be granted emancipation. A Virginia family law attorney can (and should) assist you in preparing the petition of emancipation.
What Will Change If I Am Granted Emancipation?
Life will change for you and your parents in a variety of ways. Your parents will be released from their legal obligation to provide you with housing, food, medical care, clothing, education, and other basic necessities. They will also no longer be responsible for your supervision. They will no longer be legal or financially responsible for your actions. This will all be your responsibility, exactly as if you had reached the age of majority.
You will also gain the legal right to things ordinarily reserved for legal adults, including:
- The right to enter into contracts
- The right to join the military
- The right to make medical decisions for yourself
- The right to own your own earnings and property
- The right to marry
- The right to buy and sell real estate
- The right to enroll in school or college of your choosing
- The right to apply for a loan
- The right to apply for a driver’s license without parental consent
At WhitbeckBennett, we have several partners and associates with the expertise to help you navigate the complex process of emancipation. If you would like to explore the possibility of pursuing emancipation, give us a call to set up a consultation.
By: Lauren Hunt
Lauren Hunt was formerly an Associate Attorney of WhitbeckBennett. She was born in Fairfax, Virginia, but she considers Nashville, Tennessee home. Lauren graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Pepperdine University and earned her law degree at the University of Alabama School of Law – where she graduated with a Public Interest Certificate and an Order of the Samaritan.