Emancipation is a legal act or transaction through which parental rights or guardianship powers over a minor is extinguished or terminated so they may make decisions about themselves and their property. The effect of emancipation is to allow the emancipated minor to act as a person of legal age.

Circumstances in Which Emancipation Occurs

How does emancipation occur?

In Puerto Rico, emancipation occurs if any of the following circumstances are present:

  • reaching legal age
  • marriage
  • consent of the parent(s) with patria potestas or parental rights over the minor
  • authorization of the court

 All emancipation decrees must be recorded in the Vital Statistics Registry as a marginal note on on the emancipated person’s birth certificate in order to make it effective with regard to third parties.

What is emancipation by legal age?
Emancipation by legal age, also known as automatic emancipation, occurs upon reaching the age the law provides as the age of majority. In Puerto Rico, the age of majority is 21. Upon reaching legal age (that is, 21 years old), the person is assumed to be able act for themselves and look after their own interests, except where a Court has declared the person to be legally incapacitated.
What is emancipation by marriage?
Individuals under the age of 18 become emancipated when they marry. Even when they have been emancipated, they nonetheless need their parents’ consent in order to place their children for adoption.
Once a person is emancipated, can it be reversed?
An emancipation cannot be revoked. In other words, once a minor is emancipated on any grounds, it cannot be reversed or canceled. For example, if the marriage is declared null or the minor gets divorced, the person who was emancipated by marriage is not placed again under the parental rights or patria potestas of their parents or the guardianship of a guardian.
What is an emancipation by consent of the parents with parental rights?

Emancipation by consent of the parents (biological or otherwise) with parental rights or patria potestas occurs when the following requirements are met:

  • the person to be emancipated must be at least 18 years old and have the ability to discern and understand the nature and the consequences of emancipation.
  • the person must consent to be emancipated
  • the person granting the emancipation must have parental rights or patria potestas over the minor
  • the parent and the minor must declare their willingness through a public instrument executed before a notary
Must the grounds for the emancipation by consent of the parents with parental rights be stated?
No. This type of emancipation is a discretionary act between the parties. The mere statement of the parties’ will suffices, and no justification is required.
After emancipation is granted, should the emancipated child continue receiving child support?
The emancipation of a minor or even reaching legal age does not necessarily mean that the duty to pay child support automatically ceases. The right to receive child support may exist even if the child reaches legal age or has been emancipated. This may occur when the child begins professional studies before reaching legal age, continues studies thereafter, or has the need to study and requests child support.
What is an emancipation authorized by the court?
Under certain circumstances established by law, a court may emancipate a minor, provided that the person has reached the age of 18. In addition, it must be shown to the satisfaction of the court that emancipation is in the child’s best interests.
What are the grounds for emancipation by the court?

A minor may request to be legally emancipated when:

  • the parents or guardian abuse the minor or willfully and repeatedly fail to fulfill the duties arising from the exercise of parental rights (patria potestas) or guardianship (for example, custody is not provided, the minor is not in their company, or the child is denied financial support or education, among others)
  • the minor is orphaned by both parents or by the person exercising parental rights over them
  • the person exercising parental tights over the minor has been declared absent or legally incapacitated
  • the person exercising parental rights has had such rights definitively terminated
Who may request emancipation by the court?

The following persons may request emancipation by the court:

  • a minor under the age of 18 and represented by the Department of Justice
  • either one or both parents, even if the other parent objects
  • the guardian
  • the person who has custody or is in charge of the minor
  • any person who shows an interest in the minor’s well-being and protection
How is emancipation requested by the court?
A petition for emancipation may be filed at the Office of the Clerk of the Court closest to where the minor to be emancipated resides.
What should I expect from the emancipation proceedings?

The following is a brief summary of what happens during the emancipation proceedings in court. It is important to note that court proceeding does not necessarily develop as described here since the circumstances of each emancipation must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Petition

The petition for emancipation is filed with the Court of First Instance by the person under 18 and/or the parents (biological or otherwise), the guardian, the person in charge, or any person interested in the minor’s well-being.

If all parties agree to the emancipation, they may file a joint petition and submit to the court’s jurisdiction without the need to file an action against another party. This process is therefore not contentious and is identified as an ex parte proceeding.

Otherwise, a petition for emancipation is filed against the persons with parental rights or guardianship powers who object to the emancipation. The petitioner (the person filing the petition for emancipation) must serve notice on the respondent (the person against whom the petition is filed) and include a copy of the petition along with the summons issued by the court. The Summonsform (“Emplazamiento”; OAT 1578) may be used. This form must be filled out and filed with the Office of the Clerk of the Court along with the petition so the court may issue such summons.

  1. Notice / Summons

After the petition is served, the petitioner must send or deliver a copy of all the documents to the Department of Justice (at the Prosecutor’s Office of the corresponding judicial region) and certify such act to the Court.

To serve the summons and thus notify the respondent, the petitioner must coordinate such service with a private process server or with the marshals. Fees for service of process by the marshals is $30.00 to be paid in internal revenue stamps.

The respondent will have 30 days to file an answer to the petition.

  1. Hearing

Once the petition and any report from the Prosecution have been evaluated, the judge will schedule an emancipation hearing. In this hearing:

  • the minor must consent to the emancipation and show they are able to manage themselves and their property and that they have sufficient means to support themselves independently
  • either parent or the guardian may oppose the emancipation
  • the judge will ensure that the minor’s consents to the emancipation is made freely and voluntarily
  • the Prosecution will be heard via representation from a Family Advocate

During this proceedings, the judge may take precautions to protect the minor and the minor’s property.

  1. Judicial Determination

If the judge finds that emancipation is in order, it will be stated in a resolution or judgment. In this resolution or judgment, the court provides that the minor is thereby emancipated and is considered to be of legal age for all legal intents and purposes, without exception.

  1. Recording

Once they receive the court’s decision, the emancipated person must return to the Office of the Clerk of the Court and request a certified copy of the decision. The fee for such copies is $6.00, which includes the record search and handling and includes the first page of the decision. Each additional page costs $0.60. The certification has an additional cost of $1.00.

The certified copy must be taken to the Vital Statistics Registry for the emancipation to take effect with regard to third parties. This means that the emancipation is valid from the moment of the court issues its decision. However, in order for others to know that the emancipated minor is considered a person of legal age for all legal purposes, the decision of the court must be recorded.

Revised: February 2023