Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Emancipation Definition:

The act of freeing a person who was under the legal authority of another (such as a child before the age of majority) from that control (such as child reaching the age of majority).

Related Terms: Age of Majority, Manumission, Slavery

From Latin: freedom from the power or authority of another, as when a child attains the age of majority.

In Plainville,  the Supreme Court of Connecticut wrote:

"Ordinarily a child is emancipated at majority. But the desertion of a minor by his parent may also emancipate him.

"Emancipation occurs when a person once under the power and control of another, is rendered free.

"A minor is emancipated if placed in a new relation inconsistent with the former relation as part of his parent's family. Where the parent has absolutely renounced, by agreement or implication, all care and control of the child, he is emancipated. An unemancipated child is presumed to be still under the control of his parent."

Everesley wrote:

emancipation poster"A child under age may be freed from the parental control by becoming emancipated.... leaves his (parent's) family and household and by reason of his trade, occupation or condition, is not under the control of his (parent), becomes ... emancipated. Emancipation is based upon a condition of things which is inconsistent with the idea of the child being part of the (parent's) family and under (their) control."

In the era of slavery, a slave would seek emancipation to thus no longer be the property of, slave to the authority of his/her owner.

In the US, Abraham Lincoln issued his famour Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 (poster pictured) which began with these words:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."


  • Cairns, A., Evereley's Law of The Domestic Relations (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1937), page 487.
  • Plainville v. Milford 119 Conn. 380 (1934, Supreme Court of Connecticut)

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