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can i move out at 17 years old without any legal consequences in washington state?

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  • can i move out at 17 years old without any legal consequences in washington state?

    hello, i am 17 years old and live in a verbally and emotionally abusive home in Washington state. I turned 17 last month and have been contemplating several ways to leave the house I am in.

  • #2
    Hey there,

    Thank you for writing to us here at National Runaway Safeline (NRS). We understand it takes great courage to reach out, and we appreciate you sharing a little bit about what’s going on. It sounds like you’re quite overwhelmed by things at home right now and you mentioned being harmed. We’re sorry you’re going through this. You don't deserve to be hurt in any way.

    18 years old is generally the age that an individual may leave home without permission from their parent or legal guardian. We are not legal experts here but we can speak in general terms. If you are under 18 and leave home without permission, your parent/guardian may file a runaway report with the police. What actions the police take once you are filed as a runaway can vary a lot from state to state and even city to city so we cannot predict exactly what would happen in your case. Generally speaking, if you encounter a police officer while reported as a runaway, you will likely be returned home. Another thing to consider is that while running away is not a crime, a legal adult who allows you to stay with them may be putting themselves at risk for being charged with harboring a runaway. Sometimes, if a youth is close to turning 18, they won’t take runaway reports. A good way to find out the laws in your area is to call your local police and ask what their policies are regarding runaway youth.

    Often, having a safe space to share how you’re feeling may bring a variety of solutions previously not thought of. You are not alone in this, school counselors and teachers can also provide you with great support. We want you to know that we are here as support to help you through this challenging time. If you would like to talk more in detail please chat soon through our website if you are unable to call in.
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

    Tell us what you think about your experience!


    • #3
      Hi, so I am 17 years old and both of my parents I feel are emotionally abusive and I've also been put through physical abuse by one of my step parents that my legal guardian lived with at the time with me. And I feel like I do not feel comfortable in any way staying with my legal guardian anymore and would like to live with someone else. I understand the harboring a minor but if I talk it out with the police am I able to sign paper work or go to court to stay with them and feel safe.


      • ccsmod13
        ccsmod13 commented
        Editing a comment
        Hi there,

        Thank you for contacting us here at NRS and for sharing a bit about your situation. Abuse of any kind is never okay and it can certainly become overwhelming and difficult to cope with at home. It's understandable you would want to leave and have an opportunity to live somewhere you feel safer. You deserve to be treated with respect and to feel cared for at home.

        While we are not legal experts, we can speak generally on leaving home as a minor. Your parents are considered your legal guardians and can control where you live until you turn 18. If you were to leave without their permission, they can report you as a runaway to the police. Running away is not illegal and it is not something you would be arrested for, but it is a status offense. This means your parents can ask police to return you home if they know where you are staying. It is true that whoever you stay with could be at risk of harboring a runaway, but from what we know it is not very common. Now, there is not a universal way that police handle runaway and harboring cases and it can vary state-by-state. Some police departments are more lenient with someone who leaves and is close to turning 18, and they might not force you back home. You can call your local police department's non-emergency line to speak with an officer about this situation. You can ask if your parents can report you as a runaway even though you are 17 and if police would force you back home if you have somewhere safe to stay.

        The other option like you mentioned could be to go through the court. This would require you to become emancipated, meaning you are granted the rights and responsibilities of a legal adult. If this were to happen you would have the legal freedom to choose where you live, but it can be a lengthy and difficult process. The process can vary by state, but generally it requires that you show a judge you can live independently and can financially support yourself. If you would like to pursue this further, we can provide legal aid resources. You can contact us directly anytime by phone or through live chat for referrals.

        We hope this information is helpful. If you have more questions, need resources, or would like to talk more, please do not hesitate to reach out again. We are available 24/7 for immediate support by phone at 1-800-786-2929 and live chat at

        Stay safe and good luck,

    • #4
      wow im 17 as well turning 18 in like 6 months my dad abused me up till i was 14 and now he just steals my stuff like today he took my shave kit Like wtf
      but yea i dont really wanna wait till im 18 but i need to finish school i still have 2 years and im scared if i move they will use the school computer to track where i am and bring me home
      so What should i do should i leave


      • ccsmod1
        ccsmod1 commented
        Editing a comment

        Thank you for reaching out to NRS. We're so sorry to hear you've been abused and are continuing to be mistreated by your dad. No one should have to go through that. It is brave of you to reach out to us.

        You mentioned wanting to know how you can leave home before turning 18. The easiest way to leave home is with your parent or guardian's permission. We understand that might be challenging, however, maybe there’s another family member, relative, or a family friend who could help to communicate how you’re feeling to your parent/guardian. The second way is through Child Protective Services if safety is a concern. Lastly, you can also look into emancipation options. In most states you need to be at least 16 to be considered and demonstrate that you can support yourself financially and independently. Emancipation often can be a lengthy process and may even cost some money for court fees. We would be happy to look into legal resources if that’s something you are considering.

        If you can give us a call at 1-800-RUNAWAY or reach out through Live Chat we can try to find some youth shelters that may be near your city and state by utilizing our database of resources. We can also try to call out to shelters with you or on your behalf to advocate for you.

        Thank you for reaching out and best wishes,


    • #5
      i’m also 17 turning 18 in 6 months and i don’t wanna wait until i’m 18 to leave i’m honestly scared if i try to leave right now that she will call the police report me missing and then when they bring me back she will beat me.. my mom has a history of abusing me and my brother most of the time because of our actions if we disobeyed her. i struggle with depression and she never got me help and would tell me to kill myself many many many times she would say i should slit my wrist and to do it the correct way basically she wouldnt take my mental health serious and she still doesn’t i fear that when she finds out i don’t wanna continue school she will ship me off somewhere or beat me i wanna leave now if i could i hate being here all though everything is fine right now my mental health is getting entirely worse the longer i’m here with her can i leave at 17 since my birthday is in 6th months i live in washington state the city is renton should i call the non emergency police number and ask or.. idk what to do i know things at home are going to get entirely worse and when they do i won’t have a phone to contact the police last year my mom beat me so bad i whelps and knots on my head and all over my body was completely sore and was barely able to move or walk and wasn’t allowed outside of my room followed by her pouring water on me in my sleep and barely feeding me i mention this because i fear it will happen again when she finds out i don’t wanna continue school right now and also that’s situation happens because i snuck a friend who needed a place to stay the night inside if that justifies her beating me like that


      • ccsmod3
        ccsmod3 commented
        Editing a comment
        Hey there. Thanks for reaching out to us here at NRS. We know that it can take a lot of courage to reach out for support, and we're glad you took that step.

        It sounds like things have been pretty tough for you, and we're sorry to hear that. Because you mentioned that there is abuse going on at home, we do want to mention right off the bat that it might be a good idea to contact Child Protective Services (CPS) for support. Their job is to ensure that you're safe in your home, and if you're not, to decide what steps should be taken in order to make sure that you are. If this is something that you're interested in doing, you can file a report on your own, by contacting us here at NRS for support, or by telling a safe person of the abuse (like a teacher, school counselor, therapist, etc.). Each person that I've listed is considered a Mandated Reporter and has a legal obligation to contact CPS when there are any suspicions or indications of abuse. We understand that moving forward in this process can be scary, but want you to know that your safety is critical. These are folks who will prioritize that. If you have any questions about filing a report, what it entails, or would like to learn more about child abuse in general, Childhelp is another great resource to utilize. They're a child abuse hotline and you can reach out to them by texting or calling 1-800-422-4453, or by chatting with them live at

        While running way from home is ultimately your choice, it is possible that you'd face some challenges in doing so due to your age. It's possible that mom will file a missing persons or runaway report with the police, which increases the likelihood of you being returned home if picked up. It's also good to know that if you end up staying with someone after you leave home, they could be at risk of facing legal consequences for harboring a runaway. Generally speaking, there are three ways that you can leave home without running into some of this issues--getting consent from your mom to leave, through CPS removing you from your home, or through emancipation.

        As you continue to think through things and decide what's next for yourself, please know that we are here for you. We know that it can be incredibly difficult to work through thoughts of hurting yourself, especially if you don't have an adequate support system. If there is ever a time that you find you need someone to talk to, you're welcome to give us a call. Another resource that might be helpful to you is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can reach them by calling 800-273-8255 or by chatting with them live at And if you ever find yourself at risk of being hurt (from your mom or yourself), please contact your local law enforcement agency for immediate support.

        Please feel free to reach out to us directly if you'd like to chat in more detail about what's going on, continue to explore your options, or have some support in filing a report with CPS. You can contact us at 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our live chat at We're available 24/7 and are always happy to listen, and to help.

        Take care.


    • #6
      Hi. I am a 17 year old and I have 5 months till I turn 18. My mom adopted me when I was 12 from my biological mom who was physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive towards me. My adopted mom is emotionally abusive. She is also emotionally unstable. She at age 8 pulled a knife at her baby brother. But back to the present, she has copied basically everything I have told her about my biological mother. I told her my bio mom would hit me with belts and then she started. I told her my bio mom would blame everything on me and then she started doing the same thing. We have moved a lot from state to state and have no stability. My mom sent my sister away to Kansas with her older brother. My brother and I ran away before that. After she sent my sister away she ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Now she's home and wants me to come home too. CPS has been on our case since January and we live in King county. I just don't know what to do from here. And the parents I live with, my friend's parents, are not able to let me stay until I am 18.


      • ccsmod15
        ccsmod15 commented
        Editing a comment
        Hello, thank you so much for contacting NRS and opening up to us about what you have been dealing with. We want to make sure you know that you do not deserve to be treated in the way that you have been by your biological and adopted mom, and we are here for you.

        It sounds like you have already run away from your home and you have made sure to stay at your friend’s home to stay safe. It also sounds like you have been in contact with CPS to take care of your situation with your mom. In the state of Washington, the age of majority is 18, meaning that if your mom does call the police, they would probably only take you back home to her. We do understand that you are currently at your friend’s home, so if you are looking for another place to go until you turn 18, you can consider staying at an emergency shelter or a runaway shelter. If you think this is an option you want to explore further and find which shelters may be right for you, feel free to chat with us at or you can call us at 1800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929). Just keep in mind that most shelter will have to notify your parent or guardian if you are under 18 and want to stay there. If CPS is already involved and they have been unable to file any abuse reports for you yet, feel free to contact us through chat or phone as well and we can discuss other possible legal options with you.

        Thank you again for sharing your situation with us and just know that there is a way to navigate through this. Again, if you would like to discuss any of the options discussed earlier, feel free to call us at 1800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or chat with us at We are always here to listen to you and support you! Best of luck with everything and hopefully you are able to figure out your next steps moving forward.

        Stay safe,

    • #7
      I am 17 going to be 18 in 10 months and was wondering if i leave home can my parents call the police on me?


      • ccsmod15
        ccsmod15 commented
        Editing a comment
        Hi there,
        Thank you for writing to us here at National Runaway Safeline (NRS). We understand it takes great courage to reach out, and we appreciate you sharing a little bit about what’s going on. It seems there is a lot that you are faced with right now and you’re feeling like leaving is one of your only options. It seems you want to know some information on runaway laws.
        While we are not experts on the law, 18 is generally the age that an individual may leave home without parent permission. If you are under 18 and leave home, your parent/guardian may file you as a runaway and you may be returned home. Also, those you stay with may run the risk of being charged with harboring a runaway. For more specifics on the law, the local non-emergency police or legal aid may better answer legal questions.
        We are here as support to help through this challenging time. We can best help by phone or chat as NRS is unable to respond more than twice by forum to assist you. If you would like to talk more in detail please call or chat soon.
        Our contact information is 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929); (click on the chat button).
        If you are at risk of any danger or feeling unsafe, we encourage you to reach out to 911 or seek emergency assistance immediately.
        Be safe,
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