Emancipation generally means to free from restraint, control, or the power of another. In the context of family law, emancipation means to free a minor child from parental control.
In Maryland, a child reaches the age of majority upon turning eighteen. At that time, under the law, a child generally has the rights, privileges, and obligations of an adult. Prior thereto, no Maryland statute or rule provides a process for full emancipation from a parent, which means any action for emancipation would rely on case law.
The Court of Special Appeals in Holly v. Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, 29 Md. App. 498 (1975) held that “emancipation of a minor may not be achieved by the voluntary action of the child but may result (a) from abandonment or mistreatment by the parent, or (b) from a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights.” A number of cases detail the mistreatment by a parent which might result in the emancipation of the child. The behavior which gives rise to an action for emancipation is variously described in the case law as “brutal,” “atrocious,” and “extreme.” A number of cases also state that abandonment by a parent might result in the emancipation of the child. In all instances, the courts have found that the mistreatment is to be assessed on a case by case basis.
A number of cases detail additional unique circumstances under which a child may be considered emancipated, including the marriage of the child or the child’s entry into military service. See Bradford v. Futrell, 225 Md. 512 (1961) and Pumphrey v. Pumphrey, 11 Md.App. 287 (1971). A child will not necessarily be considered emancipated under these circumstances which would, again, be assessed on a case by case basis.
Although no Maryland statute or rule provides a process for full emancipation from a parent, Maryland statutes and rules provide a number of ways for a minor child to achieve partial “emancipation.” In certain (often limited) circumstances, a minor can consent to medical or dental treatment, including consent to treatment or advice about pregnancy, contraception, venereal disease, emergency medical services, drug abuse and alcoholism, and mental or emotional disorder.
Additionally, in a number of cases, agreement may be reached to provide that the child might, for example, reside outside the family home, secure employment outside the family home, bear a child, or the like. While these agreements are not an agreement to emancipation per se, they reflect that there are options short of a court order to provide a child with certain freedoms, which may resolve the concerns at issue.
Contact the lawyers at Andalman & Flynn for help answering your questions about emancipation in Maryland. If you need help with any of a variety of other legal matters, the attorneys at Andalman & Flynn are here. Don’t hesitate to contact us today at 301-563-6685.
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