The Legal Freedom Granted to Teens: Emancipation

In Quebec, individuals are legally considered adults at the age of 18, while those under 18 are known as "minors". However, certain decisions require the assistance of tutors, typically parents, as minors are not permitted to act independently. Adolescents may feel impatient to gain more autonomy and restricted access to certain rights.

To address this, legal emancipation may be pursued, providing some minors with equivalent adult rights in specific situations. Parental authority and tutelage prevent under-18s from exercising their rights on a par with adults, but emancipation curbs their impact.

Parental authority encompasses parents' responsibility towards their children from birth to adulthood, including custody, guidance, and education. Tutelage for minors shields them but restricts teens from representing themselves in court or signing commercial leases independently.

Tutors for minors include mothers and fathers, who can jointly serve as a minor's tutors or sole guardians after death, incapacitation, or court-mandated removal. Other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or a parent's spouse, may fulfill this role if appointed or nominated in wills, mandates for incapacity, or a public curator's appointment upon the parents' demise or incapacitation. In cases in which the Director of Youth Protection intervenes in the child's life, the agency may select a person to act as tutor.

Emancipation is granted in two forms: Simple emancipation affords minors many crucial rights but falls short of conferring adult standing, whereas full emancipation grants almost all adult rights. Generally, minors must be at least 16 years old to seek emancipation, although younger minors may be granted emancipated status if sufficient justification exists. The courts do not emancipate minors on a whim, so there must be valid reasons for granting such a vital status.

Emancipation aims to safeguard minors' rights in limited situations and is not a solution for minors chafing under parental restrictions or discipline. Here are some examples in which emancipation may be appropriate:

    Myra, aged 17, is completing her high school diploma on a part-time basis whilst working full-time. Being left a large sum of money by her deceased mother, who did not name a tutor to take care of her, resulted in Myra being placed under the custody of the DYP for several years. Wanting to manage her money and find her own place until she turns 18, she has applied for emancipation. Stella, also aged 17, has been living in a foster home for the past year. She wishes to move in with her boyfriend, purchase a car and sign a lease, as her foster parents have refused to care for her. The DYP has supported her request for emancipation, stating that she is mature and responsible. Julie, aged 16 with a daughter, has requested emancipation so she can become her daughter’s tutor.

    Emancipation is an extreme solution used to tackle certain exceptional circumstances, often involving youth protection. It is usually granted to older teenagers near adulthood, who demonstrate a high level of maturity, capability to handle significant responsibility and independence. The simple emancipation framework releases teenagers from the authority of their tutors or parents. Through this emancipation, the duty of custody, supervision, and education does not rest upon the parents or tutors. In other words, once the duty of custody ends, teenagers are no longer required to live with their tutor and no longer become runaways.

    With simple emancipation, teenagers gain the ability to complete various tasks without their tutors’ involvement. They are free to execute their civil rights, such as signing contracts and upholding their rights without being represented by their tutors. However, the tutor still has the obligation to advise and supervise any significant decisions that may impact the teenager’s financial situation. For instance, if the teenager wants to refuse an inheritance or accept a gift with a substantial burden such as a cottage requiring repairs, then the tutor may intervene.

    Moreover, teenagers who have received simple emancipation are prohibited from taking out a considerable loan, namely a mortgage, without court permission. This decision is made after consulting the tutor.

    Two ways are available for teenagers to acquire simple emancipation. Firstly, teenagers aged 16 years and above, with permission from their tutors, can file a statement to the Public Curator, demanding emancipation. The statement should specify the teenager’s request to emancipate and the tutor’s agreement. Additionally, the tutorship council must it also approve the declaration. The tutorship council comprises the teenager’s relatives and acquaintances (or one person in some cases) whose aim is to supervise the tutor’s actions and ensure acting in the teenager’s best interest if they are not the parents or the teenager owns property worth $40,000 or more. It is infrequent for parents to file a declaration of emancipation with the Public Curator.

    Secondly, teenagers can file a declaration of emancipation themselves. This occurs when the tutor does not endorse the emancipation request. The judge in charge will assess if this decision is in the teenager’s best interest and consult the tutor and tutorship council, if there exists any council. Legal assistance is provided for people under 18 through automatic enlistment of lawyers to help them through this process. Learn more about legal aid by visiting the website of the Commission des services juridiques.

    Upon being fully emancipated, teenagers are granted legal autonomy, relinquishing them from the authority of their parents or guardians, affording them certain rights and duties that were once exclusively reserved for adults. As a result, emancipated minors are able to execute various legal actions, including, among others, suing their parents for support, drafting a will, entering into lease agreements, purchasing, renting, selling, or mortgage properties.

    It is important to note that emancipation does not confer the full scope of adult rights upon teenagers. Further information on the array of rights that emancipated minors are bestowed with is available under the item "Does an emancipated minor have all the same rights as an adult?"

    Teenagers are eligible for full emancipation via two primary routes: through marriage or by seeking a court order. While teenagers who are married will be granted full emancipation, it is essential to bear in mind that they will require the permission of a court to wed, and the minimum age requirement to get married is 16.

    Alternatively, teenagers may apply for emancipation on their own volition, allowing a judge to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to grant such an emancipation, and whether it is in the minor's best interests. The judge evaluates the case based on advice from the tutor and, if available, the tutorship council.

    It is vital to comprehend that minors aged below 18 are automatically entitled to legal aid, which encompasses being allocated a lawyer to assist them through the emancipation process.

    Emancipated teenagers are solely eligible for specific rights and responsibilities, articulated within the Civil Code of Québec, such as signing contracts, departing from the parental home, litigating, and procuring driver's licenses without parental authorization. Fully emancipated minors are also entitled to receive social welfare payments. However, emancipation does not significantly alter teenagers' rights under other laws. For instance, emancipated minors cannot vote, buy tobacco products, or patronize bars, while in the scenario of criminal charges, emancipated minors are still subject to trial as minors, not adults.

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