Emancipation in Maine
What is emancipation?
Emancipation means that you are no longer under your parents' control. You can be treated as an adult by others. The Maine courts follow strict standards when deciding if you are mature enough to be emancipated.
You are no younger than 16 years old
You refuse to live in a home provided by both of your parents, legal guardians or custodians
At least one legal guardian or parent must live in Maine to file in this state
If both parents are legal guardians live out of state, check with that state’s emancipation laws or call the local district court where your legal guardian resides
Questions to consider before court
What is your “self-sufficiency” plan? How will you meet your basic needs?
Why is it in your best interest to be emancipated?
Have you demonstrated that you are able to make good decisions?
Step by step guide to filing for emancipation
Go to the local district court in the county where one of your parents, legal guardians, or custodian lives (the petition for emancipation must be filed there)
Go to the civil clerk window and request a “request for counsel form”
Once you fill out this form, you will be granted a free lawyer to represent you.
(link to request for counsel form)
You can also fill out “request for counsel” form and mail it to court
It does not cost any money to file for emancipation
Provide the court with contact information where you are most comfortable receiving mail and phone calls. Your attorney and the court will need to be able to reach you in order to move the process forward.
What to expect from a court appointed attorney
Your court appointed lawyer will contact you and set up a time to meet with you to talk about why you would like to be emancipated and what your plan is for supporting your basic needs
The court appointed lawyer will file the petition for you and represent you at court
The petition will be sent to the court and to all current legal guardians
What happens at Court?
The Court will ask you and your parents to try mediation before you have a hearing.
Mediation is a way to see if you and your parents can reach an agreement without having a court hearing.An example of an agreement is that your parents allow you to live with a relative or friend for the rest of the school year, and you agree to go back home for the summer. Or it could say that your parents agree to your emancipation.
The mediator is appointed through the court
Your lawyer will also be there with you.Mediation can be in one room, or you can ask the mediator to keep you and your parents in separate rooms.If you and your parents come to an agreement, it will be written down and everyone will sign it.It will then be sent to the judge for approval.
What to expect at the Court Hearing
- Because you are the one asking to be emancipated, you testify first.
- Your attorney will call you to the stand and may call other witnesses
- Your parents have the right to cross-examine you and all your witnesses.
- After you put on your case, your parents can testify and call their own witnesses.
- Your attorney will be able to cross-examine your parents and their witnesses. .After everyone testifies and pictures, documents, and other evidence are admitted, the Judge will make a decision. Sometimes, the Judge may want to think about the case and may tell you that a decision will be mailed to you and your parents.
- In most cases, the decision will be made the same day as the hearing.
Be prepared to discuss your plans
- Are you mature enough to take care of yourself?
- The Judge will consider your behavior in the courtroom when deciding if you are mature enough to take care of yourself.
- Where will you reside? With who? Can they accompany you to the hearing?
- How will you take care of yourself? (food, medical care, etc.)
- Do you have a job? If so, where? How much do you make? Bring wage stubs if you have them
- Information about any benefits you get or have applied for, such as MaineCare, Food Stamps, Social Security, VA benefits, etc.
- Your plans for education or vocational training (you must be in a school program if you have not graduated or earned your GED)
- Your plans for other needs, such as clothing
- Anything you have posted on Facebook or other social media sites, can be used in Court.
- Pictures or statements on your Facebook page or your friends' or family's pages can hurt your case. This is true even if you have your settings on private. Finally, anything you text can also be used against you.
What if the Court denies my petition?
- If your petition is denied, the Judge may recommend that the Department of Health and Human Services provide services and counseling to you and your family while you are living together.
- You also have the right to appeal a decision you do not agree with it, if you think that the Judge made an "error of law." The law is not totally clear on what the appeal procedure is.
- To be safe, you should file any appeal to the Superior Court within 5 business days. Talk to your court-appointed lawyer right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I automatically emancipated if I have a baby?
No. Although some girls believe that having a baby make them legally emancipated, it does not.
Am I automatically emancipated if I get married?
Yes. In Maine, if you are 16 or 17 years old and want to be married, you must have your parent's or legal guardian's written permission. Once you are married, you are automatically emancipated. This is the only situation where you are emancipated without going to Court.
Can I get child support from my parents if I am emancipate?
No. Once you are emancipated, your parents no longer have to support you.
Can I get Survivor's Benefits if I am emancipated?
Yes. You are still eligible for survivor's benefits from Social Security and/or the Veterans' Adminstration (VA) if one of your parents has died. But, when you are emancipated, you should become your own representative payee. This means the benefits can come directly to you. You can ask to be your own representative payee by contacting the agency that gives you your benefits, such as Social Security or VA.
Can I get my stuff from my parents?
- If your parents bought the property you use and it was not a gift to you, then the property is your parents. You do not have a right to take it.
- Anything that you bought, even if it was from allowance or gift money, is yours.
- Anything that was a gift to you, like a television for Christmas, is yours. You have the right to take your property.
- If your parents will not let you take it, you can contact the police to report it as stolen or have an adult file a small claims case on your behalf for the return of your property.
Does emancipation give me all of the rights and duties of an adult?
- Emancipation gives you the rights of an adult when it comes to decision-making and entering into contracts, like a lease. But, your age is still considered when it comes to what you can and cannot do under certain laws.
- Even if you are emancipated, you are still not allowed to possess and/or drink alcohol, smoke, or vote.
- If you are charged with a crime, you will still go to juvenile court. If you are male, you do not have to register for military service. Laws like these, that have age limits, will still apply to you.
If I am emancipated, where can I attend school?
You go to school in the district where you live. More information on residency and attending school.