Emancipation of Minors

Emancipation of a minor gives them some of the rights and responsibilities of an adult, however, it does not give them individual adult status in all aspects of the law.

What is Emancipation?

Emancipation is defined as the freeing of someone from the control of another. Emancipation of a minor means the parents losing of rights in or authority and control over a minor child. Emancipation gives the minor some of the rights and responsibilities of an adult. Emancipation does not make a minor into an adult and does not give the minor adult status for all things. For example, an emancipated 17 year old still may not vote or purchase alcoholic beverages or cigarettes legally.

When is a minor—person under 18 years of age—emancipated?

A minor is emancipated automatically (referred to as "by operation of law") in the following circumstances:

  • When the minor is legally married.

  • When a minor reaches the age of 18 years.

  • While on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States.

  • For purposes of consenting to medical care a child is considered emancipated while in the custody of law enforcement if the parents cannot be located.

Can a minor be emancipated in any way other than "by operation of law"?

Yes. A minor can also be emancipated by a Probate Judge.

What is necessary for a court ordered emancipation?

The minor who wants to be emancipated files a petition in the Probate Court, in the county where the minor resides. The Petition for Emancipation (Michigan Approved Court Form PC 100) must be completely filled out and signed by the minor.

This and related forms can be accessed and printed from the Supreme Court Administrative Office site. These forms can also be completed online with step by step instructions via our Automated Court Forms page.

Does anyone else have to sign the Petition?

The bottom half of the back of the Petition is a blank affidavit (written statement under oath). The affidavit part of the petition must be completed by one of the following persons and must be signed before a notary. Persons to complete the affidavit: physician, nurse, member of the clergy, psychologist, family therapist, certified social worker, social worker, social work technician, school administrator, school counselor teacher, law enforcement officer or duly regulated child care provider.

What does "under the continuing jurisdiction of another court"  mean and why does it matter?

If there is another court that has entered any orders that affect custody, parenting time, or support of the minor and those orders are currently in effect, that Court will have to be notified. (For example, if your parents are divorced, a notice will have to be sent to the Family Court in the County where the divorce was granted.)

What else needs to be filed with the Court?

After completing the petition, make at least 4 copies before filing the original with the court.

A certified copy of the minor's birth certificate must also be filed in the Probate Court along with the petition. Birth certificates can be purchased from local county clerk's offices or from the Michigan Department of Public Health, Office of State Registrar at 3500 N. Logan St., Lansing, Michigan. If the minor was not born in Michigan, check with the State Health Department in the state where the minor was born.

Is there any cost?

When the Petition is filed (turned in at the Probate Court), there is a filing fee of $15.00 payable to the Court. In some counties, the Court may charge additional fees in advance for copies or for the costs of investigation or serving the papers for you.

After the appropriate fee is paid the court clerk must schedule the petition for a hearing before a judge or referee. (The minor may rightfully demand the hearing be set before a judge.)

What if I cannot afford to pay the filing fee and other costs?

If you are receiving public assistance and/or are very low income, you may file an Affidavit and Order of Inability to Pay Fees and Costs asking the Judge to waive or suspend the costs.

However, as a practical matter, you may want to wait until you have saved the money to file. One of the things that you need to prove to the Judge is that you are financially self-supporting without any assistance from government programs or your parents.

Once the hearing date is scheduled, is there any else that needs to be done?

Yes. Either you or the Court will have to make sure that a copy of the Petition, Summons and Notice of the Hearing is sent to everyone who is required by law to be notified. (Be sure to ask the court clerk if they send these papers out or if they consider this to be the minor's responsibility.)

In addition, after the petition is filed at the Probate Court, the Probate Court may assign a court employee to investigate and file a report, may appoint legal counsel for the minor or may appoint legal counsel for a parent if the parent is indigent. If the Court does this, meetings with them must be arranged and their reports must be filed before the hearing.

Who must be notified?

The law requires that a copy of the petition and a summons to appear at the hearing be served on the minor's parents or guardian. A Notice of Hearing shall also be sent to the person who signed the Affidavit portion of the petition unless that person checked the box on the petition stating they waive notice of the hearing.

What steps are necessary to "serve" the papers properly if the Court does not do it?

Send or give the parents with a copy of the Petition and a copy of a Summons properly filled out.

Send or give a Notice of Hearing to the person who signed the affidavit on the Petition, if that person didn't waive notice.

These persons can be served by mail (if done at least 14 days before the hearing) or in person (if done at least 7 days before the hearing).

Fill out a form called Proof of Service showing when and how you served those persons. Sign the Proof of Service and turn it in at the court.

Do the parents and/or guardian of the minor have to come to Court?

The Summons orders that they appear. It is up to the Judge or referee whether the hearing can go ahead without them if they do not show up.  

What does the Judge or referee have to decide at the hearing?

At the hearing the probate judge must order the minor emancipated if the judge determines that to be in the best interest of the minor. For the judge to make this determination the minor must be able to show that:

  • Parents or guardian do not object or if they do object they are not providing support to the minor.

  • The minor is at least 16 years old.

  • The minor is a resident of Michigan and that particular county.

  • The minor can manage his/her own finances and has either employment or means of support other than Public Assistance such as Food Stamps, TANF, State Disability.

  • The minor has the ability to handle personal and social affairs (including proof of housing).

  • The minor understands his/her rights and responsibilities under this law. (The minor must read the emancipation law and understand it.)

    It is up to the minor to convince the judge that all of these requirements are met. This is done through sworn testimony from the minor and any other persons the minor wants to have in the courtroom to testify about these areas.

What happens after the minor and all the witnesses have given their testimony?

After the minor is done presenting his/her case to the judge, the judge will either dismiss the petition or order the minor emancipated. The Judge will sign an Order of Emancipation putting his or her findings in written form and the Order will be final when the Judge has signed it.

What happens to the Court order?

The original will remain in the Court file. The minor can get copies of the order from the court. At least one copy of the order should be a certified copy. (There may be a charge for that.)

The emancipated minor (if hearing was successful) shows the order to whomever necessary to prove that he/she is emancipated and that he/she has the rights and responsibilities listed in section 4e of the Law. The law regarding emancipation in Michigan is found in the Michigan Compiled Laws at Section 722.4.

To locate free or low cost legal assistance:

  • Visit the Michiganlegalaid.org home page and search for local assistance by entering your zip code in the box marked “Find a lawyer, organization or related service to help you with your problem.” or

  • Look under "attorneys" in the yellow pages to find your local legal aid office, or

  • Contact the Michigan State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 968- 0738. 

  • Persons age 60 or older, regardless of their income, may be able to receive free advice from the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors by calling (800) 347-5297.

This article appears courtesy of Legal Aid of Western Michigan.