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The Ins and Outs of Graduated Minors: PART 1

August 31, 2016

Graduated Minors, Part 1: Why Become a Graduated Minor?

When it comes to working in showbiz there are no guarantees for pretty much anything, yet if your young actor has become a teenager, odds are you’ve heard the rumor that getting a high school diploma early is just the “ace in the pocket” needed to further launch a career.  The act of doing so gets tossed around amongst terms like “Legal 18,”  “Emancipation,” and “Graduated Minor.”  And the general consensus is that if a producer can hire an “18TPY” (18 to play younger, which is the term you will see in many breakdowns and often hear from agents and managers), s/he will likely do so over hiring a minor to avoid the associated cost as the cost of doing business with a minor (especially in a lead role) can really add up. 

Children In Film would like to debunk some of the rumors, clarify the terms, and ultimately help you decide if this is a path that is right for your child.

Why should my child become a graduated minor?

Many parents find themselves faced with this question because they’ve been encouraged by their agents and managers to have their children become “Legal 18” so that they are more marketable.  They are told that in CA (as well as under SAG Rules), someone who is “Legal 18” can work any hours as an adult and thus the hunt begins as moms and dads try to figure out what all these terms mean.

Let us clarify:
  • Legal 18: Simply put, this means that the minor has achieved legal adult status, which can be obtained in one of two ways.  1.) The minor either became emancipated from their parents through the court system (and the emancipation documents specifically exempt the minor from Title 8 of California’s Child Labor Law) or 2.) the minor graduated from high school. 
  • Graduated Minor: In California, to be considered “Graduated” means that the minor maintained a four-year course above the eighth grade, or had an equal amount of education in a private school or by private tuition, or who has been awarded a California high school certificate of proficiency (CHSPE) pursuant to Section *48412 of the CA Education Code.   In other states, minors may be graduated by GED, or other High School Equivalency type of testing such as TASC.  Check with your local school board to find out what type of equivalency testing is available in your area. Testing is usually available at scheduled times throughout the year for a fee of around $120.00

GED vs. CHSPE:  The CHSPE  was designed for high-school students who want to leave school early in order to go to college or to enter the workforce. However, opting out of high school still requires parental consent. The GED (general education diploma) was created for people who have already left high school but would still like to earn the equivalent of a diploma. 

Therefore the minor will get his or her GED or CHSPE (California High School Proficiency Examination) so that s/he can work legally as an adult. Similar to “Legal 18,” becoming a graduated minor means that the child is still under 18 but can work as an adult because he or she has graduated from high school (by testing out).

  • Emancipation: This term, while often used to describe a graduated minor is actually something much more complicated and likely an unnecessary step on the path to working as an adult.  Emancipation is the legal act of a minor becoming independent from his or her parents before the age of majority (18 in most states). There are only three ways to do this: get married, join the Armed Forces, or petition the court. The teen must be able to fully support themselves and be living on their own. In CA, the minor must be at least 14 and must have a parent’s permission to petition the court. As far as work goes, he or she must still hold a work permit if not graduated, but may obtain one without the signature of a parent/guardian.
So many in the industry are eager for minors to get “Graduated” and understandably so based on the idea that work would, in theory, increase.  Unfortunately becoming a graduated minor has its downside too.  Stay tuned for part 2 of our three-part series where we discuss the pros and cons of becoming a graduated minor.