Legal Question in Juvenile Dependency in Michigan

Moving Out At Age 17

In the state of Michigan, can you legally move out on your own at age 17 without having to be emancipated or having to have your parent's permission? I've heard that you can but I've also heard that you cannot at age 17, you have to wait until 18. Can you move out at 17 without emancipation or parent's permission????

Asked on 5/04/09, 10:24 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Neil O'Brien Eaton County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney
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Re: Moving Out At Age 17

In Michigan, you're "considered an adult at 17" ONLY in regard to whether you'll be prosecuted for crimes as an adult or a juvenile delinquent. (If you are 16 and under, you are usually prosecuted as a juvenile delinquent, but once you turn 17 all crimes are prosecuted in "adult court".)

So, you're still a minor -- and subject to obeying your parents' reasonable commands -- until you turn 18 OR until you are legally emancipated. Emancipation an occur after a judge grants you emancipation (but you carry a heavy burden of proving that you're emotionally mature enough to make all decisions for yourself AND you prove that you can pay for your own needs).

If you move out w/o permission, you are a "runaway" under Michigan law [MCL 712A.2(a)(2)] because you are still a minor, are not legally emancipated until you are 18 (usually), are without proper are/placement, and are subject to follow your parents' decisions (including where you're supposed to be living).

Yes, you are egally old enough to drive a car and to consent to have sex, but that's pretty much it until you are legally emancipated.

One good reason for a parent to control where their child lives, who the child interacts with, etc. is that until the child IS emancipated, the parent is legally responsible for the child's care & supervision (housing, clothing, food, medicals, etc.), and is on-the-hook to pay for damages caused by the child. They have a right to have the child under THEIR "watch" if THEY are on that hook.

This isn't just about money. It's also about the parent being in a position to still "raise" the child, to give guidance, etc. It's harder to do when the child's not at home with them, and especially with people the parent doesn't approve of.

Another important issue: As a minor, you cannot make medical care decisions (e.g., surgery), only your parent or a legal guardian can.

What could happen to you? As a runaway, police could haul you back to your parents' home, AND a petition could be filed in juvenile court for that court to take jurisdiction over you as a runaway or as an "incorrigble youth" [MCL 712A.2(a)(2)].

What could happen to the people you are living with? They could be charged with Harboring a Runaway [MCL 722.151], a misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year and/or $1,000 fine. Remember, those people might have opened their doors to you out of the goodness of their hearts, but ... they might have also done so for more sinister reasons. Also, they are not your parents or legal guardians (a position authorized by a Judge), so they cannot legally make decisions for you that a parent does, like authorizing medical care for you. (What if you need surgery? YOU are too young to agree to it, and the hospital needs a parent or legal guardian's ok.) Yes, this is a worst-case scenario, but it's one example of why your decision is foolhardy.

What's the rush about, anyway? Why not wait until you ARE a legal adult (18) before you try to ACT like one?

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5/04/09, 11:18 am

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