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If I leave my house at 17, can I be forced to come back?

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  • If I leave my house at 17, can I be forced to come back?

    I'm 17 years old, and live in NY. I've been trying to find a way to legally leave my house as my mother and I have been having a pretty bad relationship lately. I love my mother, but I feel if i keep living her we won't want to have a relationship. I've already had to cut ties with my father, and would really like to keep our relationship somewhat decent. Can I legally leave my house at 17? And can my mother or the police force me to come back?

  • #2

    Hello and thank you for reaching out to the National Runaway Safeline. We’re sorry to hear that your mom is making your living situation so emotionally difficult. It makes sense that you want to leave an environment that may not be good for your mental health, and it is reasonable to think that some space between you two would help your guys’ relationship.

    While we are not legal experts, we do have a great deal of experience working with runaways. It is not illegal to run away. Your parent/guardian could file a runaway report on you but this would NOT mean that you would get arrested or charged with anything. It typically does mean that the police could return you home if they encountered you and that would be that. Some police can be more understanding about what is going on at your home. In our experience, police will oftentimes return the youth back to their guardian almost no matter what. Police typically do not actively search for a runaway youth. However, they will go where the parent/guardian directs them if they know where you are staying. Additionally, police can sometimes be more lenient about runaway situations the closer you are to 18. You can attempt to calmly, respectfully, and persistently deny them consent to touch you or take you anywhere, and they may give up on trying to return you home. They also may not, in which case you should comply with what they tell you to do for your safety.

    Another thing to take into account is the current COVID-19 situation. It has made running away a significantly more difficult and dangerous endeavor and it might be something you want to consider if you are planning to leave. It may be wise to wait until the state of emergency ends and for it to be medically safe to leave quarantine.

    If you want to talk more about what is going on and what options you might have, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-786-2929 or chat us at

    Take care,


    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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