Issues for Minor Seeking Emancipation

There are several issues that may arise when a minor wants or needs to seek emancipation.


Unlike marriage, getting pregnant and having children does not mean that a minor is emancipated.  The reasoning is that when a minor marries, the spouse (rather than the parents) will support the minor.  By contrast, in most cases, a minor who is pregnant (or recently gave birth) will likely continue to depend on parents or legal guardians for financial support.

In Maryland there are exceptions to this general rule:

  • A pregnant female over age 16 is "emancipated with respect to matters concerning the pregnancy" In re. Smith, 16 Md. App. 209,295, A.2d 238 (1972).  This means that she has the right to control her own decisions about her pregnancy.  This includes decisions about pre-natal care and abortion.
  • Another exception is if a minor moves out of a parent's house and set up housekeeping with the child's father, a friend, or partner.  Depending on overall circumstances, this may show that s/he intends to be free from the parent's custody, control and support.



If a minor is not married, the doctor may not perform an abortion unless the parent or guardian is notified first. However, the physician may perform the abortion without notifying the parent or guardian if the minor does not live with a parent or guardian or if the physician efforts to notify them have failed.

The doctor may also perform the abortion without notifying the parent or guardian if the physician decides that:

  • Notice to the parent or guardian may lead to physical or emotional abuse of the minor,
  • The minor is mature and capable of giving informed consent to an abortion, or
  • Notification would not be in the “best interest” of the minor.

Read the Law: Md Code Health-General §20-103


Marriage Under Age 15

Maryland law prohibits marriage by anyone under the age of 15. 

Read the Law: Md Code Family Law §2-301


Marriage at Age 15, 16, or 17

If you are 15, you can marry if you meet both of the requirements listed below. If you are 16 or 17, you can marry if you meet one of the requirements.

  • You have the consent of a parent or guardian, and
  • The woman to be married has a certificate from a licensed doctor stating that the doctor has examined her and that she is pregnant or has given birth.

Read the Law: Md Code Family Law §2-301

If a minor has a valid marriage, s/he is generally considered to be emancipated. If a minor does not have a valid marriage, the situation is not as clear. A primary factor is whether the minor is self-supporting.

If you become emancipated as the result of a valid marriage, it is a partial emancipation. It does not change your status concerning your right to vote, drink, sign a contract or to take other actions where the law limits minors. You can however petition the court to end your guardianship if you show proof of your marriage.

Read the Rules:Maryland Rule 10-209:Maryland Rule 10-710


Joining the Military

In Maryland, in the question of emancipation by entering the military applies only to seventeen year olds. The minimum age to join the military is 17 years old.  You must have the written consent of a parent(s) or guardian if you are under the age of 18. Once a minor reaches age 18 in Maryland, s/he is emancipated regardless of military status.

Read the Law: 10 USC § 505

In general, a minor who enters the armed forces is likely to be seen as emancipated. This is because the government is considered to now exercise the type of control a parent might otherwise have.

However, in Maryland, there is no specific law declaring a member of the military emancipated from his/her parents. The Court of Appeals of Maryland notes that "Whether the entering of a dependent child into the military service constitutes an emancipation falls under the general principle that whether emancipation has occurred in a given case is a factual question." In other words, the answer depends on the specific facts of each case. If it can be shown that the parents continued to support the minor after s/he entered the military, there is less chance that the minor will be considered emancipated. Bradford v. Futrell, 225 Md. 512 (1961)


Entering a Military Academy

Sometimes it is necessary to look at what judges in other states have decided to give some idea of what a judge in Maryland might say. These cases can give you some possible considerations, even though they do not directly apply to Maryland.

For example, courts in other states have looked at whether entering a military academy (such as West Point or Annapolis) constitutes "entering the armed services". If it does, then the minor should be considered emancipated. In Ohio, one court in a support modification action decided that entering an academy is not the same as entering the military. Howard v. Howard, 80 Ohio App. 3d 832, 610 N.E.2d 1152 (1992)

However, courts in other states have decided that enrollment in a military academy is not the same as entering active duty with the military. Accord Zuckerman v. Zuckerman, 154 A.D.2d 666, 546 N.Y.S.2d 666 (2nd Dep't 1989) and Porath v. McVey, 884 S.W.2d 692 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994)

It is not clear how a judge might decide this in Maryland. Talking to an attorney can help you to decide whether you might need to take court action and what your chances are of showing emancipation by virtue of entry into military academy.


Arrest/Criminal Behavior

Juvenile Court

The juvenile court handles cases involving youths who are under age 18 at the time of the incident at issue. Each county and Baltimore City has a juvenile court.

Juvenile court handles the following types of "criminal" cases for persons under the age of 18.

  • Children in need of supervision (CINS)- juveniles who are truants from school, violate curfew laws, run away, are disobedient, or ungovernable.
  • Delinquency
  • Citations for alcohol violations

The goal of the juvenile courts is to assist children and their parents to stop the delinquent behavior. It is not a criminal court. Find out more about Juvenile court.

Committing a delinquent act (or crime) does not emancipate a minor. Parents are held liable for the acts of their children. Parents are accountable to the victims and to the community.

However, in certain situations, the court may decide to remove the child from the home to find another situation that will provide discipline and care.

Criminal Court

  • Cases involving certain serious offenses by juveniles go directly to a criminal court. These cases include:
  • Children 14 or older charged with crimes which, if committed by an adult, are punishable by death or life in prison;
  • Children 16 or older charged with robbery or attempted robbery with a dangerous or deadly weapon;
  • Children 16 or older charged with non-jailable traffic or boating offenses.

However a judge can transfer even these serious cases to the juvenile court.

Read the Law: Maryland Courts & Judicial Proceedings §3-8A-03


Medical Care

Under Maryland law, a minor can consent to medical treatment under the following conditions.

  • You are married.
  • You have a child.
  • An emergency occurs (an emergency means any delay to obtain consent from someone else will harm your health).
  • You want specific treatment or advice about: drug abuse, alcoholism, sexually-transmitted diseases, pregnancy, contraception (other than sterilization).
  • You need a physical exam and treatment of injuries from an alleged rape or sexual offense.
  • You need a physical exam to obtain evidence of an alleged rape or sexual offense.
  • You need an initial medical screening and physical exam after being admitted into a detention center.

Even if you object, physicians, psychologists, or medical staff may provide your parents (or a parent's spouse), your guardians, or your custodians with information about the treatment. Whether or not your physician, psychologist, or other medical staff share this information is left to their discretion. However, information about an abortion may not be shared. 

Read the Law: MD Code Health-General §20-102

A relative, who is providing living arrangements, care, and custody of the child due to a serious family hardship may give consent for medical care to that minor. This type of arrangement is known as "informal kinship care."

Serious family hardship means the parent or guardian:

  • Has died;
  • Has a serious illness;
  • Suffers from drug addition;
  • Is incarcerated;
  • Has abandoned the minor; or
  • Has been assigned to active military duty.

In order for the relative to give consent, the relative must meet both of the following:

  1. The court has not appointed a guardian for the child or has not awarded custody to someone else, and
  2. The relative verifies that the "informal kinship care" exist between the relative and the child. The relative must provide a sworn affidavit to the Department of Social Services. The affidavit must include:
  • Child's name and date of birth,
  • Name and address of the parent or legal guardian,
  • Relative's name and address,
  • Date that the relative assumed informal kinship care,
  • Nature of the serious family hardship, and
  • The kinship relation of the child and the relative.

Read the Law: MD Code Health-General §20-105


Mental Health

If you are at least 16 years old, you can consent to consultation, diagnosis, and treatment of a mental or emotional disorder by a physician, psychologist, or a clinic. However, if your parent, guardian, or custodian has given consent to consultation, diagnosis, or treatment you cannot refuse.

Read the Law: MD Code Health-General §20-104


Inheritance/Other Assets

In most states, minors do not have the right to form a legally enforceable contract. So, parents and other adults cannot simply transfer assets to their minor children, but instead must transfer the assets to a trust. One of the most common trusts for a minor is known as a custodial account. The money then belongs to the minor but is controlled by the custodian until the minor reaches the age of 21.

Read the Law: MD Code Estates & Trusts §13-320

A custodian must be responsible for handling money for minors and paying the minors for the minors benefit.  However, money owed to a minor can be placed in a bank account and the minor may withdraw the money with permission from the court.

Read the Law: MD Code Estates & Trusts §13-501

Up to $5,000 per year can be paid to the account custodian, until the minor reaches the age of 18. But, once a gift is given to the custodian for the minor, it cannot be taken back.

Read the Law: MD Code Estates & Trusts §13-304,  §13-501

At age 14 or older, the minor can ask the court to pay them directly.

Read the Law: MD Code Estates & Trusts §13-314 





Updated by Regina Strait, Esq.

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