CHARLESTON – An Alum Creek teenager received a crash course in how aggravating the civil justice system can be in her recent attempt to gain emancipation from her parents.

On July 20, Autumn Lee Wiseman, then 15, filed a petition in Kanawha Circuit Court asking she be emancipated from parents Melinda Sue Shaffer of Alum Creek and Michael Wiseman of Pinch. At the time of her petition, Wiseman was living with her boyfriend's parents in Elkview.

"I think I'm responsible enough to have two children," Wiseman said in her motion. "I'm responsible enough to have my own say in what I do."

In a later interview, Wiseman said her desire seek emancipation was done mostly out of necessity.

After the birth of her second daughter, Wiseman said she was living with her mother and four sisters and brothers in Alum Creek.

"After I had this baby, she told me I had to find a place of my own," Wiseman said. "Things were difficult."

The first hearing on Wiseman's petition was scheduled for Aug. 31, but Judge Paul Zakaib postponed the hearing until October after discovering the proper legal notice had not been published.

A ruling on Wiseman's petition was again delayed until Nov. 14. The re-scheduled hearing came just four days prior to Wiseman's 16th birthday.

On Nov. 14, Wiseman was accompanied to the hearing with her two daughters and 18-year-old boyfriend. Though her father still was somewhat reluctant, Autumn said her parents decided not to voice any objection to her petition.

After discussing the matter with her in his chambers for nearly 30 minutes, Zakaib granted Wiseman's petition.

"From the testimony taken at the hearing and the observation of petitioner by the Court, it is clear that the petitioner is able to manage her own affairs and is able to provide for her physical and financial well-being and has the ability to make decisions for herself," Zakaib said in granting her petition.

Though happy the ordeal was now over, Wiseman said it was not what she expected. Anyone in a situation similar to hers, Wiseman said, should really think it through.

"If they're in the situation I'm in, I'd encourage them to take the route I did," Wiseman said. "Otherwise, I'd encourage them to work it out."

Currently, Wiseman is not actively attending high school, but is taking home-study courses. Her immediate plans include receiving her diploma and later attending college.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-MISC-248

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