Can you divorce your parents? How do you divorce your parents if you are an adult child dealing with controlling parents or in-laws, or a teenager seeking legal minor emancipation or “divorce” from your parents? Are you dealing with a toxic, abusive and/or controlling parent and want to know how to “divorce” your parents?
I’ve received several “divorce your parents” email questions in recent weeks, from adult children dealing with over-involved, controlling parents who don’t know how to parent adult children, and from teens who think that getting pregnant on purpose or getting married too young is the way to qualify for emancipation from parents in order to get out from underneath their parents thumb. I’ll first respond to the adult children, then the teens.
If you are an adult child who has been researching “parents controlling adult children” or “controlling parents”, you likely came across my articles about parents helping vs. enabling adult children and didn’t think those apply to your specific situation (or they do apply, but that’s not what you want to hear and you don’t want to admit it).
How To Divorce Your Parents
Based on some of the emails I’ve received, I’d venture to say that there is a strong possibility that you may have a sense of entitlement that makes you want to “have your cake and eat it too”, but you can’t have it both ways.
If you really are dealing with “controlling parents” or in-laws that don’t understand what parenting adult children means or the need for respectful boundaries, these articles will help explain that “divorcing” controlling, toxic parents as grown, adult children may be the only viable option left to protect your physical, emotional, mental health and well-being.
Allow yourself the personal right to disengage, disassociate, and detach.
- Toxic Relationships-Toxic Family Members
- What It Means To Let Go
- How to Be a Good Mother-In-Law
- How to Be a Good Step-Parent
- How to Get Along With the In-Laws
Reasons given for adult children divorcing their parents include:
- Parents who hit and/or verbally abuse their adult children despite being grown, married with children and living independently of parents.
- Parents who don’t show even the slightest measure of respect to their grown children, or anyone else.
- Parents who habitually lie and steal money from their own children.
- Parents who purposely attempt to drive a wedge between their married son/daughter and spouse, in an effort to cause a divorce because of not “liking” their son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
I could go on and on with this list of “divorce your parents” reasons, but you get the idea.
Part of being an adult is having the backbone or assertiveness to stand up for yourself and say NO. You can say NO by not answering phone calls or responding to emails or letters, not attending or participating in family functions, and not allowing yourself to get drawn into the insidious, toxic family drama that you find so upsetting.
An “emotional divorce” from parents may be temporary or long-term. You may discover, after a period of time goes by, that you begin to feel the desire to gradually reconnect with your parents, where new rules and boundaries are assertively negotiated and respectfully followed on both sides.
Or, you may find that the time spent not talking to or visiting with your parents over a period of time brings you the peace and tranquility you’ve needed, where you now have no desire whatsoever of ever reestablishing a relationship with your parents. Whether or not you ever decide to reconnect with your parents is a personal decision you have to live with, along with whatever consequences come from your personal choice or decision on the matter.
Emancipation of Minors
What are your reasons to get emancipated? Saying “I want to get emancipated” isn’t good enough. A minor may seek minor emancipation (often referred to as teen emancipation or child emancipation) for reasons such as abuse, neglect, marriage, teen pregnancy, joining the military or just to be an independent adult.
Unfortunately, some teens throw around the “abuse” and “neglect” words quite freely and undeservedly towards their parents rules and guidelines, and think that emancipation of minors is their personal “get-out-of-jail” free card to do whatever they want without any parental oversight or control.
Reality Check: Emancipation decrees are rarely granted and the court reserves the right to rescind the right and place the minor into the care of the state at any time, for any reason, before the minor reaches the age of majority.
Sure, there are some new “rights” after becoming emancipated, but there are other adult “rights” you will be responsible for as well. Such as:
- Support yourself financially. A judge will not grant your emancipation if you are unable to totally support yourself.
- Paying for your own food, clothing and shelter. Getting and paying for your own medical, dental, and automobile insurance.
- Pay all of your own bills. Your income must be from a legal source.
- You must go to school. Emancipation and education laws require minors stay in school, finish high school until they graduate or reach the age of 18.
- Child labor laws still apply, which means you can’t work as many hours as you may want.
- As a minor, you can’t have sex, drink alcohol or vote until you are of legal age. Forget the idea of becoming a teenage pregnancy statistic just to become emancipated. The laws governing unlawful sexual intercourse (“statutory rape”) means it is illegal for a minor to engage in sex with anyone (even if it’s with another minor), unless the teen is married and having intercourse with his or her spouse.
Running away from home and/or having sex anyway could very well show the judge that you are a troubled, rebellious teenager in need of counseling rather than emancipation. Having sex anyway could mean your “significant other” will find themselves on the list of convicted sex offenders; and it will not work to your advantage when trying to convince a court judge that you are “mature” or deserving of emancipation.
Teens, do you know the legal age to move out of the house without parent consent or permission in your state? If you commit a crime (ie. unlawful sexual intercourse) you may be tried as an adult in a court of law. Whether or not you become emancipated has nothing to do with being tried as an adult. (Age of Consent)
There is a big difference between emancipation and divorcing a parent, but far too often, teens don’t take the time to become knowledgeable about minor emancipation laws or ask the necessary questions regarding becoming emancipated, such as:
- What is minor emancipation? Legal emancipation from parents is a process that gives a teen legal independence from his or her parent or guardian before the “age of majority” (18 years old in most states), whereby a minor may petition the courts to be legally responsible for him or herself and no longer under the custody and control of parents.
- How old do you have to be to get emancipated? Emancipation laws vary from state to state. If the state you live in has an emancipation law, (only about half of them do) it usually requires the minor to be at least 16.
- How do you get emancipated? In the United States, there are three main ways to become emancipated.
2. Join the military – you must meet the military’s minimal educational requirements and provide a valid high school diploma or GED. The military must still be willing to accept you.
3. Go to court and have the judge declare you emancipated by “judicial declaration”
In order to get a judge to grant an emancipation judicial declaration, you must prove the following:
- You are at least 14 years old (emancipation age varies by state)
- You don’t want to live with your parents and your parents will consent
- You must prove you are mature. How? Do an online search for “signs of maturity” and “signs of immaturity” and see how your maturity level pans out. Witness accounts from friends, teachers, counselors, YOU, employers, and other responsible adults who will provide testimony of various signs of maturity as proof for the court.
- You can financially and legally support yourself
- You must show that emancipation would be in your best interests.
Court cost of emancipation – To get emancipated, legal forms commonly known as “emancipation papers” or “emancipation forms” will need to be filed with the court. The average filing and court fee is about $250.00, plus the cost of your legally required attorney. Attorney fees for emancipation average between $800-$1000, if the petition is not contested by your parents, otherwise the costs could be much higher if parental permission is not granted. Can you afford emancipation?
Do I need my parents’ consent (permission) to get emancipated? Yes. Minors need parental consent (and consent by the courts) to get married and parental permission to join the military. Plus, the armed forces is under no obligation to accept you. To become emancipated, a minor must give his/her parents notice of the court hearing, and the parents may go to court to contest the emancipation.
Parents: You can do an online search for “Prevent your child from becoming emancipated” for more information on that.
Teens, emancipation is a very heavy responsibility and must be taken very seriously. There are alternatives to emancipation as well, such as your parents consenting to you living with another relative or family friend. Otherwise, you will just have to suck it up and deal with your parents like the rest of us until you are automatically emancipated when you turn 18 and can legally move out of the house and be on your own.