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How old do you have to be to move out in the US?

A teen with a US flag as he move out in the US to a different home


Home-leaving is an essential marker of the transition to adulthood and is typically framed as a personal choice. The transition to adulthood is a time of significant developmental changes that shape the nature and quality of young people’s lives in the future. Independence is regarded as an essential characteristic of adulthood. 

As a result, leaving the parental home and establishing an independent residence is an important milestone in the transition to adulthood. As teenagers push against the boundaries set by their parents, the teen years are fraught with angst and drama. Many people fantasise about living alone, or at the very least with the ‘cool family’ down the street. Most teenagers regard these as fantasies, while others feel compelled to leave.

How old do you have to be to move out in the US?

Minimum age to move out in the US

When a teen reaches the age of majority, they have the legal right to leave home. Except in the following states, the age of majority in most states is 18 years old:

  • The majority age in Alabama and Nebraska is 19.
  • The age of the majority in Mississippi is 21.

When a teen reaches the age of majority, he is legally responsible for his support and maintenance if he chooses to leave his parents’ home. If a teen is still in high school when he reaches the age of majority and continues to live with his parents, they are obligated to support him until he graduates.

According to the National Runaway Switchboard, 30% of teens run away for a variety of reasons, including:

  •  The dynamics of the family
  • A desire for greater freedom
  • Child maltreatment or neglect
  • Drug and alcohol abuse (either by the teens or their parents)
  • Sexual preference

Criteria for Runaway

A runaway is defined by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a child who meets one of the following criteria:

  • Leaves home without the permission of his parents or guardians and stays away overnight.
  •  Is 14 years old or younger, is away from home with the permission of his parent or guardian but chooses not to return and stays away one night.
  • Is 15 years of age or older, is away from home with the permission of his parent or guardian, but chooses not to return and stays away two nights.

Is it legal to runaway?

The laws governing runaway teens differ from state to state. Running away from home is not a crime in most states, so the teen cannot be imprisoned, though he can be held in police custody until he can be returned to his family. In Michigan, for example, even though the legal age of majority is 18, the court has no jurisdiction to order a teen runaway under the age of 17 to return home, so the police are unlikely to intervene.

Running away is a status offence in some states, such as Texas. A judge may order the teen to return home, to be held in a detention centre until his parents can pick him up, or to be placed on probation.

Teens are considered homeless if they run away and are:

  •  Not found
  •  They live in a state where they cannot be returned to their parents forcibly.
  •  No placement in a youth home or detention facility

What if the teenager is abused?

Many teenagers flee their homes to avoid physical or emotional abuse. These teenagers are treated differently than those who flee simply because they want more freedom or dislike their parents’ rules.

Reasonable Motive

A teen is considered a runaway in Virginia, for example, if he leaves home ‘without reasonable cause’. As a result, a teen who ran away because he was physically abused would have reasonable cause to flee and would be classified as a child needing supervision rather than a runaway. Instead of being returned to their parents, the teen would be placed with another family member, an adult friend, or a foster or group home.

In Maine, the Department of Health and Human Services is contacted for all runaway cases, regardless of the reason. If DHSS believes that returning a child to his home would harm him, or if the teen refuses to return to his parents, DHSS can obtain temporary custody and place the teen with another family member, an adult friend, or in a foster or group home.

Of course, a teen who flees due to abuse must tell a trusted adult why he fled to avoid being forcibly returned to his parents. If you suspect a teen is being abused, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). The teen (or a concerned third party) can also file a report with child protective services, who will investigate the allegations of abuse and, if necessary, remove the teen from his home.

Other Legal Ways for Teens to Leave Home in the US

Teens have options other than fleeing or simply waiting until they are old enough to leave. 

Legal Emancipation

Emancipation is a legal process that allows a teenager to legally leave his parents’ home. The child is said to be emancipated from his parents in these cases. A teen can become legally emancipated from his parents in three ways:


When a teen marries, he may become legally emancipated.

Military Service

Enlistment in any armed forces branch results in a teen’s legal emancipation.

Court order

If the court determines that emancipation is in the best interests of the child, it may grant an order of emancipation.

Emancipation is difficult to obtain, but once granted, the child has the same legal rights and responsibilities as an adult, with a few exceptions. An emancipated teen’s parents are no longer required to provide financial or physical support to the teen.

Guardianship Transfer

A teen may be able to transfer legal guardianship from his parents to another adult. Guardianship can be either permanent or temporary (usually less than one year). Once appointed, the guardian will have the same rights and responsibilities as the parents regarding the teen’s care, including financial support. The parent’s rights are not completely terminated by the transfer of guardianship, and they may still be financially responsible for contributing to the teen’s care.

Transferring guardianship is simplest if both parents agree. If the teen’s parents do not consent, the proposed guardian must file a petition in court and demonstrate that it is in the best interests of the teen to be placed in the guardian’s care. The parents can contest guardianship in court, which could lead to a lengthy and drawn-out process.

Modification of Custody

In the case of a teen whose parents are divorced, the custody agreement may be modified so that he can live full-time with the non-custodial parent. If both parents agree, the process is as simple as filing a custody modification with the court. If everyone agrees, the judge will typically sign the order.

If neither parent agrees to the custody modification, the non-custodial parent must file a petition in court. For the judge to grant the modification, he must find that it is in the best interests of the teen.

State Variations

It is important to remember that state laws governing a teen’s right to leave home differ. There are distinctions in the:

  1. The majority age
  2. Whether and how he can achieve emancipation?
  3. How to appoint a third-party guardian?

Before taking action, it is important to consult with a licenced attorney who has dealt with similar issues.

Advice for a successfully moving out of your parent’s home in the US

Tips include: 

  • Make sure you carefully explore your options before making a decision. Are you prepared to live on your own? Are you able to maintain yourself financially? Are you leaving for the appropriate reasons?
  • Create a realistic budget, and don’t forget to account for ‘hidden’ costs like the security deposit or bond for the property (often four weeks’ rent), utility connection fees, and home and belongings insurance.
  •  Talk to your flatmates and parents about your worries in an open and courteous manner to prevent miscommunications, hostilities, and arguments. Being able to get along with people requires both parties to be receptive to the other’s point of view.
  •  Keep in touch and discuss frequent home visits with your parents. For instance, plan a weekly Sunday night supper together.
  •  Figure out what constitutes appropriate behaviour. Most of the time, it is the behaviour rather than the person that offends (for example, swearing or smoking). In consideration for your parents, request that your roommate(s) behave appropriately when they visit and ask that they do the same for you.
  •  If necessary, ask for assistance; if circumstances warrant it, don’t be embarrassed to do so.

7 Tips to gain financial stability as an Individual

For some, living at home continues to be stressful, but they cannot walk away from their conditions due to financial reasons. The following tips might be helpful for you to gain financial stability and to make a decision to move out of your parent’s home:

Addressing mental barriers

Considering the pandemic situation that the world has recently experienced, living at home around familiar people seems preferable. However, you might continue to want to move out and start your life independently. Such a move requires the addressing of a lot of psychological barriers, and you need to be well-prepared to handle a lot of things. Considering that you are not responsible for most things at home, you must be prepared to complete all your chores by yourself.

In case you are having double thoughts due to these reasons and you believe that you are well-prepared to take the next step but are not able to due to mental barriers, you prefer talking to a friend, family, or even a psychological counsellor. 

Building emergency fund

It is always beneficial to start building your savings from the early stages of moving out. The moment you decide to move out, there will be some goals you wish to achieve. Therefore, ensure you adequately quantify them and have funds for unexpected situations. In fact, take advantage of the time you spend with your parents to build up your savings and adequately plan out the potential expenses. 

Check your credit score

Having a good credit score has become a universal requirement for all phases of your life, including buying and renting a house. Therefore, if you have not started working towards having a positive credit score, start with that first. It is important to have a stable credit score before you decide to move out. 

Create a budget

When planning for your life after moving out, start with the basics by making a simple budget. Then, estimate the expenses, research costs, and monthly income in an organized manner. You may also consider moving to a lower-cost area, in case you decide to take up a work-from-home opportunity. Finally, ensure you factor in the one-time costs for moving out within your budget. 

Do not overlook the commonly overlooked costs

While rent and mortgage are the most common costs that become a part of your plans, there are other additional costs that people often overlook. These include electricity and wifi costs, unanticipated/emergency costs, travel expenses, etc. Therefore, make sure you account for these as well. 

Make a debt repayment plan

Your standard financial fundamentals and plans might be delayed due to any existing or potential loans you have, such as student loans. You can prefer a 50/20/30 budget plan, where you can plan to have 50% income for your needs, 30% for your wants, and 20% for savings and investments. Within 20%, if possible, you can take 5% income to make investments and 15% income to handle your debts. While this might vary depending on the circumstances of every person, ensure that you have a plan for making the relevant investments and repayment of your loans.

Talk with your parents

Your transition can become easier with your parents’ support, not just through finances but also through support and care. In certain circumstances, parents help through low-interest loans or by co-signing a lease to make the transition easier. Therefore, prefer including them in your plans. 

Frequently Asked Questions

At What Age Can a Teen Legally Leave Home in the United States?

In the United States, a teen can legally leave home when they reach the age of majority, 18 years old in most states. However, there are exceptions: in Alabama and Nebraska, the age of majority is 19, and in Mississippi, it is 21. Upon reaching the age of majority, a teen is considered an adult and legally responsible for their support and maintenance.

What Legal Options Exist for Teens to Leave Home Before Reaching the Age of Majority?

There are several legal ways for a teen to leave home before reaching the age of majority:

Legal Emancipation: A court can grant emancipation if it’s in the teen’s best interest, allowing them to be responsible for their welfare. Emancipation can also occur through marriage or military service.

Guardianship Transfer: A teen can have their guardianship legally transferred from their parents to another responsible adult. This can be a permanent or temporary arrangement.

Modification of Custody: In cases of divorced parents, custody agreements can be modified for the teen to live full-time with the non-custodial parent, subject to court approval.


How Should Teens Prepare for Moving Out, and What are the Key Considerations?

Teens preparing to move out should carefully consider their readiness for independence, both financially and emotionally. Key steps include:

  • Creating a realistic budget that accounts for all potential expenses, including hidden costs like security deposits and utility fees.
  • Building an emergency fund to cover unexpected situations.
  • Checking and improving credit scores, is crucial for renting or buying property.
  • Making a debt repayment plan, especially if they have existing loans like student loans.
  • Seeking legal advice if considering emancipation or other legal avenues to leave home.


Embarking on the path to independence? LegaMart guides you through the legalities and preparations for moving out. Our platform connects you with experienced attorneys specialising in family law and youth rights, providing the support and advice you need for a smooth transition.

The teenage years are often fraught with conflict. However, leaving home is a drastic measure that should be used only as a last resort, except in child abuse cases. If you have a problem with a teen in your home, seek professional help from a licensed lawyer and counsellor who can help you mend the family relationship.

Make informed decisions and move forward with confidence. Whether seeking legal emancipation, understanding your rights as a young adult, or planning your financial future, LegaMart is your go-to resource. Our experts help you navigate the complexities of legal age requirements, guardianship, and financial stability.

Take the first step towards your independent future. Reach out to LegaMart for clear, concise, and effective guidance. Your journey to independence starts here.

Uncover the steps and procedures for immigration to different nations, with a focus on Turkey to Norway and the US to Portugal, in Legamart’s insightful articles.

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