Family Law Keyed to Weisbergback
Brief Fact Summary. Parents argued that they did not owe the State support for time their child spent in it’s custody because he had been emancipated under the common law.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Judicial emancipation refers to the nonstatutory termination of certain rights and obligations of the parent-child relationship during the child’s minority.
Facts. In 1984 R.R., nearly 15, left his parents’ home and left with various relatives. In 1985, a petition was filed alleging that R.R. was a dependant child. The court found R.R. to be dependent within the meaning of the statute and temporarily awarded legal custody of R.R. to the Utah Department of Family Services (DFS). In 1986 the temporary order terminated and custody was awarded to R.R.’s parents, to be supervised by DFS. The State filed a petition against R.R.’s parents seeking reimbursement in support for R.R. expended during the period he was in DFS’s custody. The parents contested the petition based on the common law doctrine of emancipation and claimed their duty to support R.R. was terminated when he left their home to live elsewhere in a lifestyle of which they disapproved. The parents testified that they never ordered him to leave, but that he left because he refused to accept their condition that he give up his homosexual lifestyle. The State argued that R.R.’s
parents had not met the burden of proving emancipation because there was no evidence that he was financially independent or that he could provide his own residence. The State also argued that he had not left voluntarily because his parents had forced him to leave the household.
Issue. Did the juvenile court erroneously conclude that the doctrine of emancipation is not part of the law in Utah?
Held. On remand, the trial court should articulate the factors relevant to showing emancipation, determine if the parents established these factors, and decide if the application of the doctrine would conflict with any Utah law.
Judicial emancipation refers to the nonstatutory termination of certain rights and obligations of the parent-child relationship during the child’s minority. The parent is generally held responsible for the child’s financial support, health, education, morality, and instilling respect for people and authority. The parent is vested with custody and control of the child, including disciplinary authority. The parent is also entitled to the child’s services, and his or her earnings. When a child is adjudicated a fully emancipated minor, these rights and responsibilities are extinguished and the child is legally treated as an adult.
As the precedent relied upon demonstrates, the doctrine of emancipation continues to be an accepted part of the common law in this country. On remand, the trial court should articulate the factors relevant to showing emancipation, determine if the parents established these factors, and decide if the application of the doctrine would conflict with any Utah law.