Published May 15, 2013
The blogosphere was abuzz this week with reports that Will Smith and Jaden Pinkett-Smith’s teenage son Jaden, who co-stars with his dad in the upcoming action adventure “After Earth,” is seeking a different kind of birthday present – legal emancipation from his Hollywood parents.
“I know if we do this, he can be an emancipated minor, because he really wants to have his own place,” Will said of 14-year-old Jaden, according to U.K. publication The Sun.
But Jaden said he is "not going anywhere." Which may be a good thing considering it seems Jaden's strange birthday request likely would run into some problems in court.
“While it may sound cool to a young teenager to have ‘freedom’ from his or her parents, the decision to emancipate should not be taken lightly by the minor, the parents or the court. We certainly have seen case after case of child stars seeking emancipation to escape unstable home environments, bad parenting or even to avoid certain child labor laws,” California-based attorney, Anahita Sedaghatfar, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column.
Still, she said there’s a chance the court would grant Jaden’s request because the teen will be able to show he has the ability to be self supporting and he has his parents' consent.
“But he will need to show more than he simply wants his ‘freedom,’” Sedaghatfar continued. “He will need to explain to the court why it is in his best interest.”
And according to legal crisis communications expert, Wendy Feldman, there is no real obvious reason Jaden would need emancipation.
“Usually these are in cases of abuse or when somebody is stealing money or mismanaging a career. But maybe he wants to travel and not have to go to school,” she surmised. “But if his parents agree and have good cause he [may] be allowed to.”
Although reps for Will and Jada did not respond to a request for comment, reports circled Tuesday that Jaden is not serious about trying to get emancipated.
In any case, there’s more to getting emancipated than Jaden may think. Divorcing one’s parents in the eyes of the law comes not only with permission to live alone, but several other “adult” responsibilities such as entering into legally binding contracts, taking out credit cards and making critical healthcare decisions.
That overnight transition from teen to adult can be very traumatic for some stars. Just ask Melissa Francis, a child star on the classic “Little House on the Prarie,” who was legally emancipated at age 15.
“I didn’t have a driver’s license, how would I get to school? I wasn’t organized enough at 15 to pay the rent, manage my schedule, go on auditions, work and take care of my basic needs,”, Francis, now a journalist for the FOX Business Channel, told us last year while promoting her tell-all memoir “Diary of a Stage Mother.”
And “Modern Family” star Ariel Winter endured plenty of public scrutiny during her battle to become emancipated from her mom, who she claimed was physically and emotionally abusive.
Still, some stars found success in their emancipation bids based on career objectives – such as Alicia Silverstone and Eliza Dushku. It worked out well for them because emancipation enables young stars to work extended hours like their adult counterparts.
However, BizParentz Foundation, a non-profit organization which works to support families of children working in the entertainment industry, routinely warn that this should be considered “a last resort” – a solution for irreconcilable problems rather than a means to gain a competitive edge.
If Jaden Smith’s emancipation request is legitimate and is taken to the courts for approval, some experts warn this could reflect badly on the careers of his A-list parents.
“If Will and Jada grant this request, it will almost certainly reflect badly on them among their fan base and the general public,” added Gene Grabowski of Levick Strategic Communications. “Most adults will consider a decision to grant emancipation to Jaden to be irresponsible and a poor example for parents and teens everywhere.”