Emancipated Child

It's a dream many children have had from time to time, the idea that they could take their parents to court and "Divorce" them. Then, free from the tyranny of bedtimes and green vegetables they would be able to live their lives properly and have all that fun their parents have been denying them! So they go find a law firm willing to take their case and after the court proceedings the child is an independent entity, with no ties to former family.

Allowed in under most legal systems, although generally only for adolescents who truly have no other viable options have achieved self-sufficiency (meaning that they can currently support themselves through legal means and will be able to for the foreseeable future and are unlikely to apply for welfare).

Often a symptom of Adults Are Useless, as it implies a world where children are better caretakers than their parents. See also Frivolous Lawsuit, for when the reasons for this "divorce" are spurious.


Comic Books
  • In the Ravage book of the Marvel 2099 line it's mentioned that kids have legal rights over their parents, and are expected to receive certain benefits such as parents being polite to their friends. The main character Jean Paul-Philippe divorced his dad, but the two reconcile during the story.
  • During the Spider-Man storyline "Alpha", the titular hero-in-training uses his clout to "divorce" his parents partially to protect them and partially because they crimp his style. When Spidey takes away (most) of his powers, he's forced to come back home as part of his punishment.


  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast. Betty Sorenson, one of the main characters, divorced her parents for an unspecified reason. The court system takes "a dim view of the arbitrary use of parental authority", such as coercion in the choice of career. Mr. Kiku warns Mrs. Stuart that her son (who was still a minor) could divorce her if she tried to prevent him from going to another star system.
  • One girl in Accelerando does this. Though technically, she doesn't emancipate herself as much as sell herself into slavery to a corporation which is ultimately owned by a trust fund of which she is the sole beneficiary. The net effect is to give her control over her own life at the age of ten.
  • The plot of My Sister's Keeper revolves around a girl trying to get medically emancipated so she would not be required to give up one of her kidneys.

Live-Action TV
  • In Red Dwarf we find out that Rimmer divorced his hilariously abusive parents at 14, but retained visitation rights to the family dog.
  • Reece did this in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle.
  • In Roswell, this is how Michael gets away from his Abusive Foster dad in season 1.
  • Subverted in an episode of House, a fifteen-year-old girl claims to have gotten emancipation but in reality she stole someone's identity and forged the necessary papers.
  • Maeby Funke of Arrested Development once asked the family lawyer if she could divorce her parents, and was told she needed to prove that she was living in an unstable environment. Cue Maeby attempting to help her mother have an affair.
  • The Supernatural episode "It's the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester" has an emancipated teen. Or rather, a centuries old witch who disguises herself as an emancipated teen.
  • Jenny sought to do this in Gossip Girl but in the end decided not to go through with it.
  • A Victim of the Week in Law & Order is a pop star, who turns out to be an emancipated minor now married to her manager. The dialogue implies that she bribed her parents to keep them from contesting the emancipation.

Western Animation
  • Naturally, The Simpsons has used this as a plot. Bart, finally tired of Homers crappy parenting and neglect, gets himself emancipated, with his income coming from Homers garnished wages intended to pay back money he stole from Barts brief career acting in commercials as a baby. The judge even says she would never emancipate a ten years old except in this of blatant abuse and neglect she'll allow it.
  • Angelica "divorced" her parents in an episode of Rugrats, but it was All Just a Dream.
  • Steve Smith divorces his parents in the season 2 American Dad! episode, Star Trek.
  • In Li'l Elvis Jones and the Truckstoppers there is an episode where all the children in the town take their parents to court. Interestingly, its played slightly (emphasis on slightly) more realistic in that the big bad of the series encourages them and supports their case in order to get custody of Lil Elvis.