Juvenile Law Center

Emancipation, or Living Away From Your Parents

Emancipation, or Living Away From Your Parents, in Pennsylvania

NOTE: Many people believe that “emancipation” is a simple process that allows kids under the age of 18 to no longer be subjected to their parents’ rules, authority, or opinions.

However, emancipation is much more complicated. Generally, a parent has a legal responsibility to care for their child until the child turns 18. In Pennsylvania, children under the age of 18 may be granted “emancipated minor” status and be given the status of an adult for very specific and limited purposes that do not require going to court.

If you are not getting along with your parents, there are many services available to help handle the situation. You may live with another relative or trusted adult with your parents’ permission.

This page addresses some of the most common questions about living away from your parents. For more detailed information on emancipation, download the full fact sheet here.

Can my parents throw me out of the house if I am under age 18?

Parents have a legal right to make any decisions about their children, but they also have a legal obligation to take care of you until you turn age 18. If a parent throws his or her child out of the house, this would likely be considered behavior for which the local child welfare agency may become involved.

The child welfare agency would work with your parents so you could safely return home. This could mean providing counseling services or helping your family access financial or other resources or supports. If you cannot return home, the child welfare agency must help you find a safe place to live by providing shelter, group care, or foster care. They will also try to find family members or other individuals who may be willing to care for you as an alternative to placing you in foster care. You can find out the number for your local child welfare agency here.

I am having problems with my parents at home. Is emancipation the answer?

Sometimes youth think that becoming emancipated will solve their problems at home, but usually this is not the case. To be emancipated, you must show that you are independent and self-supporting, and this is difficult for any youth to prove. Youth who are having problems in the home have a few options. In most situations, the answer to the problem does not require emancipation by court order. Perhaps your parents would allow you to live with a friend or family member, either temporarily or permanently. Perhaps your parents would be willing to go to family counseling to learn new or better ways of getting along with one other.

Every youth should be able to live in a home where he or she feels safe and has his or her needs met.  If you are having problems at home because you are being abused or neglected, there is help available. If you are being abused, the child welfare agency should help you find a safe place for you to live.  You can call your local child welfare agency or Childline at 1-800-932-0313 for help. 

My friend’s mother has let me stay with their family since my mom threw me out of the house. Can my friend’s mother get in trouble for letting me stay with them?

As explained above, it is best if you can get your parents’ permission to stay at someone else’s home if you are under age 18. Although there is no Pennsylvania law that clearly addresses this situation, there is a law that makes interfering with the custody of children a crime that could apply to this situation (see more details in the factsheet).

Because your parents are legally responsible for you and can make decisions about where you live and who you see until you are age 18, getting your parents’ permission for new living arrangements is the safest way to go for everyone involved. See if your parents are willing to sit down and talk with your friend’s parents, with the help of a counselor or other trusted adult if necessary, to come to an agreement about your living arrangements that is satisfactory to everyone involved.

Do I need a judicial order of emancipation to enroll in school if I am living away from my parents?

Not necessarily. For more information on this, refer to page 11 of the full fact sheet.

Do I need a judicial order of emancipation to receive public benefits if I am living away from my parents?

Not necessarily. For more information on this, refer to page 9 of the full fact sheet.

Do I need a judicial order of emancipation to get health care or treatment on my own?

Not in all cases. There are many treatments that you get on your own without a parent's consent when you are under age 18. For more information on this, refer to page 10 of the full fact sheet.


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