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Is It Legal to Move Out at 17?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

How to get emancipated isn't just something that rebellious teenagers want to know. Parents and guardians also often have questions about the emancipation of minors and how it affects their legal obligations. That said, many an American teen has probably asked "Is it legal to move out at 17 (or 16 or even 15)?"

Here are some general guidelines about how to get emancipated, what it means, and what's not considered the emancipation of a minor:

Emancipation Requirements

  • Statutory age. Each state has a statute that dictates how old a child must be in order to get emancipated. For most states, the statutory age is 16, but it could be as young as 14.
  • Maturity level. For it to be legal to move out at 17 (or 16 for that matter), the emancipation of a minor, a court must generally confirm the child has enough adult-like maturity to be on his or her own.
  • Financial independence. In general, children must prove they can support themselves in order to get emancipated. That's why the emancipation of minors is often associated with child celebrities who wish to keep greedy relatives away from their money.
  • Notice to parents/guardians. A child's legal guardians must get an opportunity to respond to the emancipation request, and perhaps even oppose it.
  • Automatic emancipation. In some states, the emancipation of a minor is automatic upon the child's legal marriage or upon joining the armed forces.

Emancipation Benefits

  • Capacity to consent. Once a minor is emancipated, he or she can enter into contracts and dictate his or her own health-care choices, among other adult responsibilities.
  • Some adult activities still prohibited. Getting emancipated means a child still cannot vote or drink alcohol. Marriage may also be out of the question, depending on your state's laws.

What's Not Emancipation

  • A child who moves out. It may not be legal to move out at 17, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen all the time. Just because a child moved out and is living under someone else's roof, doesn't necessarily mean he or she is emancipated. In general, parents and guardians are still legally responsible for such a child's necessary expenses, even if another adult verbally agrees to take care of the minor.

The process of how to get emancipated can get complicated, and may require an experienced family lawyer to help stand up for a child's rights, or for the rights of the child's parents. Head to FindLaw's Emancipation of Minors section for more information.

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