Since the three prior Law Offices have performed considerable research on Massachusetts' common law approach to emancipation, this report will contain a brief summary of their findings that will serve as a backdrop for this year's discussion. However, the mature minor rule, legal access and shelter restriction will be discussed in greater detail later in this paper.
In Massachusetts, a minor may file a petition for emancipation with the Probate and Family Court in their county of residence. However, there is no statute, standard court procedure, or formal guideline for determining when emancipation is appropriate.28 The burden of proof is on the minor to demonstrate to the court that she is her own best custodian.29 Because most emancipation petitions are filed and granted by Probate or Juvenile Court, the cases are not available, thus analysis of the courts' rationales when considering emancipation petitions is not possible.30
Emancipation is granted by the court on an individualized basis, using case precedent and ``the best interest of the child'' standard. However, the ``best interest'' standard allows the judiciary immense discretion in deciding whether to grant emancipation petitions, and case precedent does not provide much guidance because emancipation is rarely granted.31
A minor may become partially or completely emancipated.32 In Massachusetts, a partially emancipated minor assumes adult status, but continues to receive financial support from her parents. Conversely, when a minor is completely emancipated, financial support from the parent is terminated.33 In this state, complete emancipation is a rarity, and is generally found when an express agreement between the minor and the parent exists.34 Because complete emancipation terminates parental duty of support, many emancipation petitions are initiated by parents as a means to terminate their financial obligations.35
The lack of formal procedures to guide emancipation determinations, the potential termination of parental obligations to the minor, and the potential lack of maturity of the minor are reasons given by the judiciary for their unwillingness to grant emancipation petitions.36 These valid concerns may be alleviated by examining and implementing characteristics of other states' statutes, particularly Michigan, and by specifying criteria that the petitioner must fulfill prior to the emancipation determination. Set criteria will reduce anxieties associated with determining whether the minor is mature enough to understand the rights and obligations that follow emancipation. These criteria are discussed in greater detail later in the paper.