How Do You Get Emancipated in Virginia?

Legal emancipation means a minor gaining the freedom associated with adulthood. This topic routinely provokes disagreement between children and their parents or guardians. The Commonwealth of Virginia has legal age laws that spell out how a minor can acquire many of the rights that adults enjoy.

Can I move out at 17 in Virginia?

If you are a minor in Virginia, you must reach 16 before you are allowed to move out. You still need your parents’ consent since, being a minor, they have the right to force you back home. You must be 18 years old to move out without parental consent.

The legal age of majority in Virginia

In the eyes of Virginia law, persons are considered to be adults once they reach the legal age of majority, which is 18 years old in the Commonwealth. Until such age, minors are still legally under the custody and control of their parents or guardians.

Parents or guardians are legally responsible for providing their minor children with basic necessities which include shelter, food, medical care, clothing, education, and supervision. They may be legally liable if the child violates any laws. Their potential legal responsibility, however, ends once the child reaches the age of majority.

Even so, there are certain situations in which a child may seek what is known as “emancipation” before reaching the age of 18 years. The emancipation of a minor in Virginia is ruled by Virginia Code Section 16.1-331,334.1.

A parent or legal guardian may also seek emancipation for a minor. Whoever initiates the process must convince the court that emancipation will serve the minor child’s best interests before they turn 18.

How does a minor become emancipated in Virginia?

To qualify for emancipation in Virginia, a minor child should be at least 16 years old. They can make their appeal by filing with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court in the administrative district where they or their parents live. The court will notify the parents who then become respondents in the emancipation procedure.

A request for emancipation must include the minor’s gender. In the case of parents or guardians as Petitioners, the request should contain their names and their relationship to the minor.

The court will then assign a guardian ad litem, a specially trained and certified lawyer approved and appointed by the court to legally represent the minor child. The Department of Welfare or the Department of Social Services may also be required to look into any accusations included in the petition.

Requirements for emancipation (Virginia Code § 16.1 – 331)

After a judicial hearing, a court may grant emancipation to a minor who is over 16 years of age if it has determined that:

  • The minor has entered into a lawful marriage (whether or not the partnership has since been terminated)
  • The minor is actively serving with any division of the United States Armed Forces
  • The minor voluntarily lives apart and separate from their parents or guardians, and that the minor is able to manage their personal affairs and can support themselves financially.

Results of emancipation on a minor

The emancipation of minors has important legal ramifications if granted. A minor who is granted emancipation may have the same legal rights as a person who is 18 years old, including:

  • The right to authorize medical, dental, or psychiatric treatment without their parents’ consent
  • The right to enter into a legal contract or execute a will
  • The right to establish their own residence
  • The right to buy and/or sell real estate
  • The right to enroll in their chosen school or college
  • The right to secure a driver’s license without the consent of their parents
  • The right to marry without parental, judicial or other consent
  • The right to their own earnings, free from parental or guardian control

Likewise, the parents or guardians who are granted emancipation of a minor are released from certain responsibilities and obligations. These include:

  • Parents of an emancipated minor will no longer be held as the legal guardians of the child
  • They will be relieved of any support obligations for the minor.
  • They will no longer have legal obligations regarding the child’s school attendance.

Is it illegal to run away from home in Virginia?

Runaways are children below 18 years old who leave home with no intention of coming back. The minor might have left their home alone or with someone who is not a parent or guardian.

In Virginia, a minor who runs away from home is not considered a criminal. As such, all runaway incidents are handled as non-criminal issues. Just because a minor has been reported as a runaway doesn’t mean they will have a juvenile record.

The Juvenile Domestic Relations Court’s Family Counseling Unit provides counseling and assistance for a family to recognize and set straight the problems that may cause a minor to run away from home. Both parents and the Family Counseling Unit can work hand in hand to benefit the child and family. Only cases that reach the court can result in a juvenile record for the child.

Contact us

Emancipation of a minor can be a complex subject. It involves certain steps as well as some unwelcome legal consequences that you should discuss with a Virginia family law attorney.

To know more about child emancipation, email us at Holcomb Law at or call us at (757) 525-2424. You can schedule a “No Hassle Legal Strategy Meeting” where our attorney will answer all your questions and show you your legal options.