Massachusetts law about emancipation of minors

Laws, cases, and web sources on emancipation law.

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Best bet

Emancipation and your legal rights as a minor, Mass Legal Help.
Includes detailed information on emancipation and its alternatives, as well as the legal rights of minors to enter contracts, work in various occupations and more. Massachusetts law does not specify who is eligible or at what age for emancipation. There is no specific form, but this page outlines the factors a judge would consider in an emancipation petition.

Even though the “age of majority” is 18, this doesn’t mean that all obligations between you and your parents/guardians end when you turn 18. In fact, Massachusetts courts have stated that there is no fixed age when complete emancipation happens. It does not automatically happen at age 18. For example, sometimes parents/guardians have to support their child past their 18th birthday if the child is mainly dependent on them for support.

Massachusetts laws

18  Age of majority

MGL c. 4, § 7, clauses 48-51 Statutory definitions: age of majority; minor; full age; adult

MGL c. 112, § 12F Emergency treatment of minors [i.e., circumstances in which minors may give consent to medical or dental care]

MGL c. 119 Protection and care of children

MGL c. 208, § 28 Divorce: children; care, custody and maintenance

MGL c. 231, § 85P Age of majority - legal capacity

MGL c. 231, § 85G Parents' tort liability for willful acts of minor children

Federal laws

20 USC § 1087vv(d) Independent student defined. The rules for independence for financial aid.

Selected cases

Baird v. Attorney General, 371 Mass. 741 (1977)
Provides discussion of the common law right of a mature minor to obtain medical treatment without parental consent.

Bobblis v. Costa, 94 Mass. App. Ct. 264 (2018)
A "child's enrollment as a student cadet in the [ROTC] did not... constitute entry into the military," and thus the child was not emancipated.

Broome v. Broome, 40 Mass. App. Ct. 148 (1996)
Declared that a father's claims were insufficient to show financial emancipation. His evidence showing she had a temporary means of support which had lasted for six months in the prior year was not enough, per the court.

Eccleston v Bankosky, 438 Mass 428 (2003)
Court found that a non-custodial, financially able parent should be ordered to pay post-majority support to a child who, prior to reaching the age of 18, became a ward of the state because her parents were unfit. The child was attending college, was still domiciled with the court appointed guardian and was not financially independent and therefore could not be considered financially emancipated.

LaBrecque v. Parsons, 74 Mass. App. Ct. 766 (2009)
This court says in part "Though no Massachusetts case has addressed this specific issue, there is nothing in our statutory scheme relative to the issue of support, or in our decisional law, on the question what constitutes emancipation that supports the conclusion that a child, who is otherwise not emancipated, becomes emancipated as matter of law when she gives birth to a child. This view is consistent with that of other States that have considered the question...We conclude that the child's status as an unmarried mother does not render her emancipated as matter of law."

McCarthy v. Boston and Lowell Railroad Corp., 148 Mass. 550 (1889)
Tort action by father for loss of earnings of minor son. Court ruled that emancipation is proved by conduct and acts. The father forfeited his rights by his acts even though in his own mind he did not intend to emancipate his son.

Turner v. McCune, 4 Mass. App. Ct. 864 (1976)
Court found that emancipation of a minor is not automatically given by statute when a child reaches the age of majority. The facts must demonstrate, i.e., that a child at the age of majority has a means of income independent from his parents to establish he is financially emancipated.

Web sources

Court procedure for the emancipation of minors, Findlaw.
This is not specific to Massachusetts but contains helpful information for the court process.

Criteria for an emancipation ruling, Findlaw.
This is not specific to Massachusetts but contains the issues a judge would consider in an emancipation request.

Emancipation of minors,
A general guide to emancipation and what emancipation means.

Emancipation of minors, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School.
A summary of the law with links to other helpful websites.

What to do if your parents can't or won't help pay [for college],
Provides guidance to students who are not considered independent under the strict financial aid standards, but whose parents will not cooperate.

Print sources

Children and the law in a nutshell, 7th. ed., West Academic, 2021. pp. 381-384.

Massachusetts practice v.1-3 (Family law and practice) 4th ed., Thomson Reuters, with supplement. Sec. 50:12 Agreements for child support, and 50:50 Expenses of college education.

Massachusetts practice, v. 33-34 (Landlord and tenant law with forms) 3rd. ed., West Group, with supplement. Chapter 6-Parties to a Lease, Section 6:2 Minors.

“Proof of the emancipation of child in order to terminate child support," 108 AMJUR POF 3d 177. 

Representing the child client by Michael J. Dale, Lexis, loose-leaf, sec. 3.05, The Legal status of minors.

"What amounts to implied emancipation of a minor child," 165 A.L.R. 723.

"What voluntary acts of child, other than marriage or entry into military service, terminate parent's obligation to support," 55 ALR5th 557.

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Last updated: May 8, 2024

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