How does emancipation of a minor child work in Utah?
Utah law provides a way for a minor child (a child under the age of 18 who is not yet a legal adult) to acquire the rights of an adult and to be treated in some respects (not all respects; see Utah Code § 78A-6-805(2)) under the law as an adult.
The Utah Code sections governing emancipation of a minor are helpful in understanding the purposes and process of emancipation.
(1) The purpose of this part is to provide a means by which a minor who has demonstrated the ability and capacity to manage his or her own affairs and to live independent of his or her parents or guardian, may obtain the legal status of an emancipated person with the power to enter into valid legal contracts.
(2) This part is not intended to interfere with the integrity of the family or to minimize the rights of parents or children. As provided in Section 62A-4a-201, a parent possesses a fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody, and management of their children.
The minimum age at which a child can petition for emancipation is 16 years.
(1) A minor may petition the juvenile court on his or her own behalf in the district in which he or she resides for a declaration of emancipation. The petition shall be on a form provided by the clerk of the court, and state that the minor is:
(a) 16 years of age or older;
(b) capable of living independently of his or her parents or guardian; and
(c) capable of managing his or her own financial affairs.
(2) Notice of the petition shall be served on the minor’s parents, guardian, any other person or agency with custody of the minor, and the Child and Family Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General, unless the court determines that service is impractical.
Court procedure for emancipation of a minor
(1) Upon the filing of a petition in accordance with Section 78A-6-803, the court shall review the petition for completeness and whether the petitioner meets the age requirement for filing the petition.
(a) If the petition is incomplete or the petitioner does not meet the age requirement, the court may dismiss the action immediately.
(b) If the petition is complete and the petitioner meets the age requirement, the court shall schedule a pretrial hearing on the matter within 30 days.
(2) The court may appoint a guardian ad litem in accordance with Section 78A-6-902 to represent the minor.
(3) At the hearing, the court shall consider the best interests of the minor according to the following:
(a) whether the minor is capable of assuming adult responsibilities;
(b) whether the minor is capable of living independently of his or her parents, guardian, or custodian;
(c) opinions and recommendations from the guardian ad litem, parents, guardian, or custodian, and any other evidence; and
(d) whether emancipation will create a risk of harm to the minor.
(4) If the court determines by clear and convincing evidence that emancipation is in the best interests of the minor, it shall issue a declaration of emancipation.
Effect of emancipation of a minor
If the court declares the minor emancipated, the minor may:
(1) An emancipated minor may:
(a) enter into contracts;
(b) buy and sell property;
(c) sue or be sued;
(d) retain his or her own earnings;
(e) borrow money for any purpose, including for education; and
(f) obtain healthcare without parental consent.
(2) An emancipated minor may not be considered an adult:
(a) under the criminal laws of the state unless the requirements of Part 7, Transfer of Jurisdiction, have been met;
(b) under the criminal laws of the state when he or she is a victim and the age of the victim is an element of the offense; and
(c) for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements regarding voting, use of alcoholic beverages, possession of tobacco or firearms, and other health and safety regulations relevant to the minor because of the minor’s age.
(3) An order of emancipation prospectively terminates parental responsibilities that accrue based on the minor’s status as a minor under the custody and control of a parent, guardian, or custodian, including parental tort liability for the acts of the minor.
Once a minor is emancipated, their parent or guardian is no longer responsible for the child’s financial support too.
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