Family Law

Emancipation in Arkansas

I haven’t done a formal survey, but there seems to be a lot of interest in minors getting rid of their parents. Unfortunately, however, there doesn’t seem to be much clarity about the details. Perhaps this will help.arkansas-emancipation

What is Emancipation?

The term “emancipation” is broadly used by Arkansas courts to describe either a) the date upon which one turns eighteen or b) the date upon which a person no longer is eligible for child support. (Those are not always the same date.) No help there. The term appears in a lot of older cases, so it may have seen more widespread usage (or had an even broader definition) in judicial yesteryear.

The term “emancipation” appears three time in the Arkansas Code, two of which are relevant to our question. In the definition section to the UCCJEA, the Arkansas Code mentions something known as “contractual emancipation,” which is presumably the removal of a minor’s disability to contract—we’ll get back to this. The other usage is in Ark. Code Ann. § 9-27-362 in a section entitled “Emancipation of Juveniles.”

But here’s the problem with that law: It can only be used in a dependency-neglect, FINS, or delinquency case. So the natural way to understand emancipation is that it is restricted to DHS matters, meaning that it doesn’t apply for most situations. The statute also lines out various hoops a would-be emancipatee (you’re welcome for that) would have to meet, which are fairly difficult and make emancipation even less available.

Options Other Than Formal Emancipation

There are two other situations in which you can throw off the shackles of childhood before you’re 18:

1. You can get married, or

2. You can petition a court to have your “disability” removed.

In the first instance, both parties will need parental consent. The husband must be 17, while the wife can be 16.

In the second instance, anyone over 16 can petition a court to “remove their disability”—basically, make them able to enter contracts just like an adult. Interestingly, this option (codified at Ark. Code Ann. § 9-26-104) does not require parental consent, although the parent(s) must have notice.

About the Author
Charlie Cunningham

Charlie C. Cunningham

Lawyer

Born, raised, and educated entirely in Arkansas, Charlie is passionate about helping Arkansas families through the court system. As a DHS attorney throughout the State, Charlie has helped hundreds of children, parents, and adults achieve positive outcomes through appropriate DHS agencies and services. Charlie understands the seriousness of any legal proceeding that involves someone’s child or loved one, and his…

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