Kellyanne Conway’s 15-year-old daughter says she is seeking emancipation. Here’s what that process might look like. (Morgan Foster Quoted)
• Mon Aug 24th, 2020 3:30pm
By Lauren Leazenby
Kellyanne Conway’s daughter, Claudia Conway, 15, announced she is seeking emancipation from her parents. “I’m officially pushing for emancipation,” she tweeted Saturday.
Claudia’s tweet came just 24 hours before Kellyanne Conway announced, also via Twitter, that she will be leaving her post as senior counselor to President Donald Trump at the end of August to focus more on her children. Claudia’s father, George Conway, also said Sunday he is stepping away from his role as founder of the Lincoln Project to “devote more time to family matters.”
Claudia is citing “years of childhood trauma and abuse” as her reason for seeking emancipation, according to a follow-up tweet.
Megan Foster, a family law attorney in the Washington, D.C., metro area, said the courts know that many teens don’t get along with their parents.
“The court is aware of the nature of the dynamics between teenagers and parents,” said Foster, an attorney at the firm McAllister, DeTar, Showalter & Walker. “So, they’re looking for something beyond just normal teenager-parent butting heads in order to rise to the level of something that would make emancipation an option.”
Emancipation “severs the parents’ legal and financial responsibilities and obligations for the child,” Foster said, adding that the process is “like a child divorcing from their parent.” To be emancipated, first, a child —likely with the help of counsel —would file a petition with the court for emancipation. The court would then issue a summons, and the opposing parties (the parents) would be served.
“That would open the gate,” Foster said. “Then there would be a full case in court in the family law division — similar to a divorce or custody case — dealing with the issue of emancipation and evaluating whether the facts merit granting of emancipation.”
Foster said the child has the burden of proving to the court that emancipation is in her best interest and that she is able to financially support herself.
Typically, minors seek emancipation for one of three reasons, Foster said: Sometimes, the teenage child is already living independently of her parents and already has a sort of practical emancipation that the legal process would make official. Emancipation can also be financially driven, as seen in cases where child actors or influencers have their own income streams. Foster said emancipation sometimes occurs in a contentious divorce, where parents don’t agree about what should happen to a child, but the court has already come down with a custody order. In this case, an emancipated child can make the decision about which parent to live with.
If a child is at least 16 years old, generally speaking, the court is more likely to grant emancipation. “Just because you’re 16 and you file for emancipation, you’re not automatically going to get it,” Foster said. “But if you’re 16 or older, you’re more likely, you have a stronger case.” She also said that because court cases can sometimes take over a year from start to finish, children might be in an even stronger position for emancipation at the end because they have aged up throughout the process.
Foster said minors seeking emancipation should know that it’s a “somber and serious process.” Children who are successfully emancipated often can afford to be represented by effective counsel, she said. If they can afford a lawyer, they probably have enough income to be self-sufficient, Foster said. But emancipation is cost-prohibitive for many who can’t afford counsel.
“But it is a resource,” she said. “If any minor child … seems to find themselves in an unhealthy or untenable circumstance, it should certainly be something they consider.”
In Claudia’s case, Foster said the Trump aide’s daughter will likely have to show that hers is an unhealthy environment to grow up in. She said Claudia may have income from her work on social media, which would help the process. However, her parents would likely oppose the emancipation, which would turn it into a “full-blown court case,” Foster said.
For parents of teens who are seeking emancipation, Foster said: “It’s definitely not an automatic thing.” If a parent doesn’t want their child to be emancipated, a parent should sit down with their child, figure out the reasoning for the complaints and work together to fix the situation, she said.
“If the parents are making substantial efforts to make the situation better, to listen to the child, to make sure she has the attention she needs, to make sure she has the resources she needs … they’re going to improve the chances of getting what they want in the court case,” Foster said.