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I'm 17 and planning on leaving home soon, are there resources provided by the law?

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  • I'm 17 and planning on leaving home soon, are there resources provided by the law?

    I'll try to be thorough here.
    I'm 17 and have decided to leave home. I have been fighting with the idea for months, but my mental health has steadily declined in my current situation and I need to leave.
    I live in Washington state, and have tried researching if I'm going to be potentially brought back by the police or jailed. I am not as concerned about this.
    However, I do not know if I will be able to file for emancipation. I currently have no job and no means of financially supporting myself, so I am unclear if this will affect whether my emancipation file is granted.
    There are some people that I might be able to stay with, but I don't want to get anyone legally involved in case my parents try to call the police on me as a runaway. I will likely be sleeping on the streets for a few days at least.
    Are there any programs available within local communities to help with food or shelter while I try to get a job?

  • #2
    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 in addition to what you have already researched.
    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.
    Our general understanding is some states offer formal emancipation statutes while others do not unfortunately. Laws vary depending on your location, but in many states a minor can petition the court for emancipation to take responsibility for their own care before they turn 18. Generally speaking, courts are wary about granting emancipation. In most cases, you would have to prove in court that you have an income and can care for yourself financially, and that you are able to live separately from your parents. It also helps to be in good standing at school. The court will also factor in the mental and physical welfare of your parents in order to establish your best interest. Usually your legal guardian would have to agree to this in court. Once you are emancipated, you can legally choose where you live, but you might still find that you cannot sign a lease or build credit until you turn 18. The emancipation process can take several months or up to a year, and may cost money in the form of court fees and other expenses. Usually, the best way to learn about emancipation in your state is to contact a lawyer. You may also find information at your county family court. We can look up legal aid resources that may be able to help you with the process.

    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 email to assist you. If you would like to talk more in detail please call or chat soon. We could look up resources and shelters in your area if you contact us directly.
    Our contact information is 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929); www.1800runaway.org (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,
    NRS
    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)

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