< Back to Search

Child Custody Frequently Asked Question #1

Published: September 16, 2012


I’m a teenager. Can I decide which parent I want to live with full time? If I want to move out of my home and live on my own, can I?


However, any changes to the original court order must be done through your State court system. Laws, policies and procedures around child custody matters vary from State to State. Your parent may want to consult with and/or obtain the services of an attorney who is knowledgeable in family law matters in your State. If you need assistance in locating and/or paying for an attorney, the American Bar Association (ABA) provides a lawyer referral service at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lris/directory/home.html (scroll to the bottom of the page for a map of the U.S. which links to local resources) and the Consumers’ Guide to Legal Help at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/home.cfm provides pro bono attorney referrals and more. In addition, the following ABA website may also be of assistance, especially to anyone needing free legal help http://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/findlegalhelp/faq_freehelp..... This site provides links to: free, State legal hotlines for individuals to call and speak to a lawyer; pro bono services for special populations; “unbundled" legal services (which means that individuals can handle part of the legal work themselves to save costs); and links to legal forms.

In regards to moving out of your home, the legal age for a minor to move out of the home also varies from State to State. In most States, minors reach the age of majority at 18, the age at which they are legally able to make their own decisions free from parental authority and control. 

However, many States have established certain circumstances under which a minor may become “emancipated” before the age of 18. In some of the States, there is legislation that allows a court to declare a minor emancipated after the minor and his/her parent(s) file a petition in which it is stated that the minor meets certain requirements such as (1) being a minimum age (usually 16), (2) living apart from his/her parent(s), and (3) being economically self-sufficient.

To educate yourself on the emancipation laws in your State, if available, the website at http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_emancipation may be helpful. Reading these laws should not be a substitute for professional legal advice. Again, you and your parent(s) or other adult may want to consult a family law attorney in your State (see the referral above).