There is so much confusion over these two, even on sets, and they are entirely distinct. Industry people who really should know better use the terms interchangeably, generally saying, “emancipated” when they mean “legal 18.” Here are the basic differences spelled out.

Legal 18: (passed the CHSPE)

  • An adult in the eyes of the industry re: work hours and education
  • No longer required to attend high school or have a set teacher
  • No work permit required
  • Still a minor in the eyes of the law
  • Cannot sign legal contracts
  • Earnings subject to Coogan law

Emancipated: (legally independent from parents)

  • An adult in the eyes of the law except for education and work hours
  • Still required to be enrolled in school or have a set teacher
  • Work permit still required
  • Still under minor work guidelines for hours
  • Can sign legal contracts
  • Earnings not subject to Coogan law/ Coogan funds available

There is an excellent chart at the BizParentz Foundation online (BizParentz.org) that spells out these and other related distinctions (click the icon at the top left of the linked page). I found it really helpful to have a few extra copies printed out to give to set PA’s (Production Assistants) who were frequently confused about what my daughter’s “legal 18” status actually meant.

It’s conventional wisdom that emancipation is a choice of genuinely last resort, typically used when finances have been so mismanaged that the Coogan funds must be tapped to pay back taxes, or when the relationship between parents and child has become so strained that the child wishes to be legally freed of them. Other than filing for emancipation with a court of law, marriage and joining the armed forces are the only other ways to become legally independent of one’s parents before the age of 18.

Emancipation does not solve the educational requirement issue, nor the work permit issue. And it leaves young people vulnerable to exploitation since they can sign legally binding contracts that they may not fully understand. Emancipation generally means that something has gone wrong. Try to avoid going there.

The CHSPE and Work Permits

The subject of work permits—how they work, and how to get one– was largely covered in a previous blog post, Does my Child Actor Need a Work Permit? They Haven’t Even Gotten An Audition Yet! But here you can see how entwined with the subject of school they are.

If your child passes the CHSPE, they no longer need a work permit. But work permits can be great leverage to have your kid keep their grades up if that is an issue. And their very existence serves as a reminder that children are children, and if they are working during hours that they should normally be in school, that there are laws about how many hours are allowed, and how much time should be set aside for education. Sidestepping those rules is an option that should not be taken lightly.

Was this helpful? Are you clear about the difference between passing the CHSPE and Emancipation now? Or do you still have questions? Let me know below!

My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!

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