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.
This is technically allowed under most legal systems, but it's a lot harder than TV will imply. Most courts will only allow it under two circumstances: one, for married minors (but minors who want to marry in the US normally need parental consent anyway nowadays), and two, for adolescents where there are truly no other good options and who have attained self-sufficiency (meaning that they are capable of supporting themselves through legal means for the foreseeable future and are not likely to go on welfare).
Occasionally a reason for a Minor Living Alone.
- Airi "Nora" Nobara from Wasteful Days of High School Girls. She lives alone in an apartment paid by her parents because she couldn't tolerate living with her dad after he lied to her all of her life regarding having a pet cat because of his allergies, the condition being that she'd sustain the prospective cat with her own earnings.
- 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.
- In the post-apocalyptic short story The Big Space Fuck (I S W E A R that's its real name), children are given the right to sue their parents over absolutely everything, as a way to discourage breeding. The protagonist and his wife are presented with a court summons from their estranged daughter, who recently got arrested for bank robbery and needed to make it out that they'd ruined her life to avoid going to jail. They (and the sheriff presenting the summons) are promptly eaten by mutant lampreys instead.
- Used in Family by Middle Warner Sibling to explain how the Warners came to live on the studio lot. Yakko signed a contract with Warner Bros Studios that allowed them to seek legal action on his behalf to revoke the Warner's incarcerated father's parental rights and give them to Yakko. The studio provides the living space (the water tower) but Yakko has to manage the family's accounts and bills, make sure Wakko and Dot go to school, and other such necessities. Its notable in that the story shows how draining all this can be on Yakko, who himself is only a young teenager, and how many mistakes he makes trying to do the job of an adult. Fortunately he does have a lot of adult friends who are willing to offer him advice and ease his pressure, so the story is prevented from becoming a disaster.
- In Red Dwarf we find out that Rimmer divorced his hilariously abusive parents at 14, but retained visitation rights to the family dog.
- Francis did this before moving to Alaska in 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: Special Victims Unit is an actress, 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.
- Another victim, a teenager with a chromosomal disorder that makes her look like a young child, applies for emancipation to get out from under the thumb of her father and grandfather, who insist on treating her like a child even though she's almost eighteen. She eventually proves that she's smart enough to take care of herself, and the emancipation is granted.
- Eleanor did this at the age of fourteen in The Good Place, and her neglectful, self-centered parents didn't even protest. Given how absurdly stupid and selfish they both were, Eleanor probably was better off alone than she would've been with them, but the damage was already done to her mindset and personality.
- Naturally, The Simpsons has used this as a plot. Bart, finally tired of Homer's crappy parenting and neglect, gets himself emancipated, with his income coming from Homer's garnished wages intended to pay back money he stole from Bart's brief career acting in commercials as a baby. The judge even says she would never emancipate a ten-year-old, except in this case 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, it's 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.