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Legal for Teenager to Move In With Boyfriend?

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Teenagers are just dying to take advantage of their independence, and for some teens that means moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The problem for that oh-so-ready-to-be-grown-up teen is that mom and dad generally aren't so keen on the idea of an underage shack-up. What's an independent-minded teen to do?

Or perhaps more importantly, what can parents do to prevent this scenario?

Parental Control Over Children Under 18

Assuming the teenager is still under 18, there are some things you can do as a parent in this situation. It's not an ideal situation, but the law is, generally speaking, on your side.

A child under 18 is still technically under the legal control of her parents, which means they can decide things like where she lives.

If your child wants to move out and hasn't turned 18 yet, then she legally can't do it without your permission unless the child is emancipated. The emancipation process takes a while, and parents do get a chance to object if they wish.

In general, asking for emancipation just to move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend won't fly in court. Minors must prove they are financially independent as part of the process.

But while legally you have a right to make your children live at home until age 18, it may be hard to enforce that under the law.

What to Do If a Teenager Moves Out

If your child moves out without your permission, you have several options. You could report the situation to the Department of Family and Children Services. But there's likely not much they can do for older children. A 17-year-old is almost too old to take into the foster system, so courts may be unlikely to intervene.

You can also call the police to force your child to come home. If you can get officers to respond, the experience may be embarrassing and intimidating enough to keep your kid at home.

Parents Are Financially Responsible for Children

Even if your child moves out without your permission, or tries to, keep in mind that as a parent you are financially responsible for your child until he or she turns 18. That applies no matter where the child lives.

If the issue comes before a court, you may be able to argue that you would only provide funding if the child came back home and followed your rules. But if your child ends up broke and malnourished, that may not be enough to avoid legal consequences.

When your child wants to assert her independence, a good heart-to-heart talk may be enough to prevent any foolish choices she'll regret. But if it's not, at least the law will support you.

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