Emancipated Minors

Certain instances and situations allow for a teenager to seek to emancipate themselves from parental control before they turn 18. This is governed by Virginia Code § 16.1 – 331. 

Virginia Code § 16.1 – 331 Requirements for Emancipation

A court may declare a minor, over the age of 16, as emancipated if the court finds one or more of the following:

  • Minor has entered into a valid marriage, 
  • Minor is on active duty with a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, 
  • Minor willingly lives separate and apart from their parents or legal guardians, with parental or guardian consent, and that the minor is capable of supporting themselves financially and managing their own affairs.

 

Emancipation of Minors is Potentially Desired to Eliminate Child Support Obligations

Emancipation of minors is potentially desired to eliminate child support obligations. If a child becomes emancipated, a parent typically ceases child support payments.

However, emancipation can become more interesting, exciting, and complex. What happens if a parent agrees to pay spousal support through age 21 to get the child through college, but then the child gets emancipated? 

The Court held in Ware v. Ware that unless otherwise provided, an agreement to extend child support to the age of 21 or when child becomes emancipated is fulfilled when a child becomes employed and earns enough to be self supporting. 

Traditionally, if a parent agrees to pay child support until a certain age, that parent will pay until the agreed upon age, unless he or she can show harm through no fault of your own. Emancipation of a minor is one instance in which a party’s support obligation can be terminated or modified. 

 

What Happens if the Legislature Changes the Age of Majority?

If the legislature changes the age of majority, a parent would be required to continue making child support payments until the new age set by the General Assembly. The exception to this would be if the parent agrees to pay until a precise age above (or below) the age of majority. This was seen in Gazale v. Gazele, a case where a father agreed to pay child support until his child reached age 21, but the legislature reduced the age of majority. The father was still obligated to pay the child support until age 21. 


Special thanks to co-author and fellow researcher, Hayden-Anne Breedlove for her contribution with this article. Hayden-Anne Breedlove anticipates graduating from the University of Richmond School of Law in May of 2019.
H. Van Smith
Trusted Virginia Family Law Attorney Serving Richmond to Williamsburg