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Legal Questions on running away at 18

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  • Legal Questions on running away at 18

    I’ll try to make this a short as possible

    Im 18 and I live in California and I want to run away to Texas.

    I already have a good plan set out. I have a place to stay, a job that I’ll work at, etc.

    I just have some legal questions.

    - If I ran away with stuff that my parents bought me (cloths, phone, etc) is it considered stealing?

    I have heard that if they are not paying for it anymore then technically it isn’t stealing, but I’m still not certain. This leads me to my next question.

    - If I buy my own car but I’m put on my dads insurance first, is it stealing if I drive away with the car I bought? I plan on putting myself on my own insurance, I just want to know if this should be done before or after I leave.

    - Another question I have is if my parents bought my phone but I am paying for the bill, is that stealing as well?

    - When I run away should I withdraw from my school first? I already have another school I plan on attending. At the same time I know I’ll bring a lot of attention to myself and that’s not what I prefer, but if that’s the only way then I don’t mind too much. Basically I want to know if I can withdraw from my school AFTER I run away to avoid any attention brought onto myself

    - I also plan on bringing my dog too since the rest of my family neglects him. But my parents are the ones who bought him. With that said the keep saying he’s my dog (since I’m the one who feeds him, plays with him, takes care of him, etc). But because my parents did buy him, I’m wondering if the can still accuse me of stealing him

    - Finally, I want to know if I should tell my parents where I am going. I don’t want to provide them a specific address (I have my reasons, mainly I don’t want them to harass me or anything). If I give them a general location (state or city) but not a specific one can they still file a missing person report? And also what are the outcomes of a missing person report? Let’s say I’m just living my life peacefully in Texas and my parents in California file a missing person report. What comes next?


  • #2
    It sounds like you have really thought through your plan. Everyone deserves a safe and supportive environment, so it’s great that you are taking steps to set that up for yourself.

    Just fyi, we are not legal experts. Youth 18 and older are no longer under guardianship. This means that they are free to leave as adults. As to a missing person’s report, families have to wait 48-72 hours before filing. Those reports are meant for situations where people fear their friend or family is in danger, and don’t know where they are. So, if you leave a note, or convey a message to them once you’ve left, they can’t file. Plus, even if they do file because you haven’t let them know, this would not force reunification. It might wind up that the police do a safety check on you and that’s it.

    Your concern about theft is valid for big ticket items. If your parents would have had the pink slip for a car, or a receipt that they paid for a computer, for example, they could say that you have stolen it. And it is true that car theft could be treated as serious. But you mentioned that the car is in your name. It’s unlikely small items, like a cell phone or clothes, would be given that serious treatment. Being on your dad’s insurance is not theft either.

    You have a right to attend school, under the McKinney-Vento act. And you can set that up by contacting the school where you want to attend. If you’re uncomfortable, there’s no reason you need to notify your current school.

    Youth in your situation do sometimes leave and not tell their parents where they have gone because of concerns like those you mentioned. You’re certainly not obligated to tell them. Ultimately, you know your parents best. Since it sounds like you have some concerns about how they might act, perhaps giving them some sort of message could smooth the transition.

    So you might consider communicating that you have left and why, the general idea that you are safe, or, if it’s appropriate, that you love them but need a different situation. You might also even give them a way to reach you that doesn’t stress your own boundaries, like e-mail, to allow them to say what they are feeling. But if, knowing them, you think that would simply create more problems, then you should certainly trust your own instincts.

    Lastly, since you are making a change, it can be important to have a support network set up. Consider having people to call who could support you if the situation turns out to be not what you expected, as well as people you can vent to about issues you encounter.

    We hope these ideas and info are helpful, and wish you the best of luck with this big step.
    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!


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