I was reading a tragic case where a child suffered a severe injury and had a <20% chance of survival with months of hospitalization, years of recovery at best if an immediate organ transplant occurred. Presuming the worst case, parents uninsured, would the parents be able to end their parenthood over the child to avoid bankruptcy?

Would it make a difference if the child was lucid and agreed with the decision? (Under age of Majority.)

This answer makes me think no: Is it illegal for a parent to refuse to pay medical expenses with child support in the USA?

  • If the child's injury/disease happened while the child was a legal dependent of the parent, I don't think it would matter "after the fact". For example if a child is injured when they are 17 and 364 days, responsibility for treatment doesn't stop on the 18th birthday for that injury... I also don't think any US court would entertain such a case.
    – Ron Beyer
    Apr 9, 2022 at 0:52
  • @RonBeyer is a couple in their 80s responsible for medical bills of their 67-year-old child that stem from accident or disease that occurred 50 years earlier? I don't think so.
    – phoog
    Apr 9, 2022 at 7:23

1 Answer 1


In Washington, a child who is 16 or older can petition the court for emancipation. A parent cannot "do" this to a child. The child has to be able to handle their affairs and comprehend the consequences. Also note that "a declaration of emancipation obtained by fraud is voidable". The minor must prove that they can manage their financial, personal, social, educational, and non-financial affairs, but there is no requirement to prove parental wrong-doing so with parental cooperation (mainly, non-opposition) a child could successfully petition for emancipation.

However, this move is ineffective is solving the parent's financial obligation. If they know that the child will require expensive treatment in the future, the petition would likely be voided as fraudulent. If the treatment has happened, the petition has no effect on the newly-incurred debt.

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