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  1. #1
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    Default Emancipation Law for Minors in Missouri

    This is to update the sticky in this thread area.

    First, Missouri does NOT have any set procedure/process/statute by which a minor may become emancipated. As such, the courts do not have an "forms" for a minor (or lawyer) to use or copy. Under Rule 87.01 of the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure, however, a person (including a minor) may obtain DECLARATORY RELIEF "in any instance in which it will terminate a controversy or remove an uncertainty" and, additionally, to obtain a declaration of rights, status, or legal relations.

    WHERE to file the petition is not entirely clear, but often the petition is filed in the county where the petitioning minor is then residing. Notably, any objection to the Court's venue must be asserted as an affirmative defense and, if not timely raised, any objection to venue is considered waived.

    Second, any minor who wants to file a Petition for a Declaration Judgment to have himself/herself declared an "emancipated minor" must FIRST petition the Court for the appointment of a "next friend" to actually FILE the Petition for a Declaratory Judgment. If the minor is under the age of 14 years old, the petition for appointment of "next friend" must be made by an adult. If the minor is at least 14 years old, then the MINOR can actually file and submit the petition for appointment of the "next friend" (and, once granted, the next friend files the Petition for Declaratory Judgment).

    Third, under Missouri common law, emancipation can occur by (1) express consent of the minor's parents; (2) by implied parental consent; or (3) by the minor's change of status in the eyes of society. Notably, "self sufficiency" is not a listed element for obtaining "emancipation" under Missouri common law.

    On its face Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 452.340.3 applies only when a parent is seeking to end "child support" for an "emancipated minor," but, logically, a Missouri court may utilize the statutory factors listed when presented with a Petition filed by a minor seeking "emancipation" from his or her parents. Under the statute, "child support" can be ended - and, thus, emancipation can be granted - when a minor child becomes self-supporting, provided the custodial parent has relinquished the child from parental control by express of implied consent."

    There is not much case law on the matter, but what case law there is provides that the statutory phrase "self-supporting" does NOT mean that a child must be totally self-sufficient and decline all forms of financial assistance. Even when the petitioning minor receives "significant financial assistance and other material support from others, including the custodial parent" will NOT necessarily defeat a claim that the minor child is "emancipated." Sparks v. Trantham, 814 S.W.2d 621 (Mo. App. S.D. 1991). Thus, under Missouri law, a minor need not be totally financially independent in order to be emancipated.

    As a practical matter, the Court will want to give notice to the parents that the petition has been filed by the minor child OR, alternatively, it will wise to have both parents (if both alive and consenting) attend any hearing on the petition.

    Obviously, it is easier to convince a Missouri Court to grant a Petition for Declaration of Emancipation if both parents (if both living) give their express consent. Usually, "express consent" can take the form of a signed, notarized statement from each parent. The court may also want testimony at the hearing to insure that the parent hasn't changed his/her mind since signing the affidavit.

    In some cases, you might be able to obtain a parent's express consent by pointing out to the parent that an "emancipated minor" can receive more financial aid for college because the parents' financial information will not be considered or taken into account for financial aid purposes. See, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). (note: the MERE ending of child support under Statute 452.340 does NOT equal "emancipated minor" for purposes of federal financial aid purposes; a minor MUST have a judgment declaring the emancipation of the minor child to be effective for financial aid purposes). Other factors that may be considered by the Court include: (1) whether the petitioning minor lives outside of the parental home (e.g., with a friend, grandparents, etc.); whether the petitioning minor earns and is solely responsible for his/her own money (has a job, controls the banking, etc.); whether the petitioning minor has the maturity to be emancipated (no criminal conduct, doing well in school, etc.); and the reasons why the petitioning minor wants to be emancipated (one or both parents are alcoholics and its a toxic environment, etc.). It may be easier to get the Court to grant a declaratory judgment petition for emancipation during the year in which the petitioning minor is 17 y.o. because the minor child will, effectively, be able to be "emancipated" when they turn 18 y.o. anyway.

    Emancipation by "implied consent" will requiring a hearing in which competent evidence of the "implied consent" will have to be provided. If the parents fail to show at the hearing after being given proper notice thereof, that can be argued as implied consent (in addition to any other evidence of "implied consent").

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Emancipation in Missouri: Update

    Do you have a question buried in there somewhere.

  3. #3
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    Oct 2018
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    Default Re: Emancipation in Missouri: Update

    No question - but the sticky on Missouri law is IMHO incomplete and misleading. I'm a lawyer in Missouri who has handled this type of case before. Much of the "advice" on here seems to be swatting down minors seeking emancipation because they are not totally 100% "self sufficient". Such a showing is NOT necessarily required in Missouri - I've represented minors who successfully obtained a declaration of emancipation WITHOUT having to establish 100%, total financial self-sufficiency. Again, Missouri law is not particularly well-developed and a LOT is left up to each judge in terms of procedure and what needs to be shown.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Emancipation Law for Minors in Missouri

    That certainly stands as an expansion upon the laws as described in this thread, which quotes a brief summation once offered by legal aid, but it does not change the law as described in that thread.

    I agree that some laypersons in this forum are quick to put out a "one size fits all" approach to emancipation laws, and ignore the sometimes significant variation that can arise between states.

    While receipt of parental support does not necessarily prevent emancipation, we should be clear that a court may properly find that continued reliance upon parental support does weigh against a finding that a minor is emancipated. See, e.g., Randolph v. Randolph, 8 S.W.3d 160, 164 (Mo.App. W.D. 1999).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Emancipation Law for Minors in Missouri

    Mr. Knowitall:

    Emancipation is a coin that has two different faces.

    First face (covered by statute in Missouri): Parent ACTIVELY trying to rid himself/herself of "child support" obligation owed to other spouse by asserting that minor child is emancipated.

    Second face: Minor child seeking emancipation from parents.

    Although "the law" is similar in both cases, it's not exactly the same -- or applied exactly the same in both instances. In sum, the party requesting the emancipation makes a difference (if not legally, then as a practical matter). The Randolph case involves the First Face noted above, not the second face.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Emancipation Law for Minors in Missouri

    The distinction you identify exists in every state that provides for emancipation of minors from parental authority; I assume you knew that?

    Let's look at Randolph which, contrary to your suggestion, deals quite explicitly with the "second face" of emancipation:
    Quote Quoting [I
    Randolph v. Randolph[/I], 8 S.W.3d 160, 164 (Mo.App. W.D. 1999).]Emancipation can be accomplished in one of three ways: (1) by express parental consent, (2) by implied parental consent, or (3) by a change of the child's status in the eyes of society. Denton v. Sims, 884 S.W.2d 86, 88 (Mo.App.1994). The third method is most often shown by the child entering the military or marrying. Id. However, it can also be shown "when a child who is physically and mentally able to care for herself voluntarily chooses to leave the parental home and attempts to `fight the battle of life on [her] own account.'" Id. (quoting, Specking v. Specking, 528 S.W.2d 448, 451 (Mo.App. 1975)). Emancipation can only occur when a minor child is old enough to take care of and provide for herself. Id....

    [As there was no parental consent], emancipation could only occur if Vanessa's status changed in the eyes of society, an issue to which we now turn....

    Appellant has not met his burden to show that Vanessa is emancipated. The only evidence Appellant offered was that Vanessa left home, quit school and lived with her boyfriend for approximately six months. The record shows that Vanessa's living arrangements during the time she lived away from home were transient, that she received financial assistance and emotional support from Respondent, and that she contacted her family on several occasions and asked to return home. Further, based on the behavior of Appellant, there is reason to question the voluntariness of the length of time Vanessa lived away from home. She would likely have come home earlier if Appellant would have allowed it. Finally, the evidence in the record shows that Vanessa was not able to take care of and provide for herself and that she did not do so. She needed help from her parents, and Respondent provided it. These are not the actions of someone who voluntarily chooses to leave the parental home and attempts to fight battle of life on her own account. Denton, 884 S.W.2d at 88. Vanessa never attained a status inconsistent with remaining subject to parental care, Sparks, 814 S.W.2d at 625, and certainly did not have parental acquiescence. Id.
    Surely you agree that Randolph stands for the position that a court may properly weigh continued reliance upon parental support against a finding that a minor is emancipated, because that's obvious from even a cursory reading of the case, and Randolph both relies upon and is consistent with Sparks.

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