Moving Out Before Your Eighteenth Birthday: What You Need to Know

30 April 2015
 Categories: Law, Articles


There are many reasons children leave home before they turn 18. Some are being abused, some have families who don't accept their gender or sexuality and others are just ready to be independent. In most cases, you are a minor, but that doesn't necessarily mean you need to stay at home.

Here are some facts you need to know:

1. Legal age to move out

In Australia, you are typically considered a minor until your 18th birthday. However, in most cases, if you move out when you are 16 or 17, the courts or the police will not make you move back home as long as you have a safe place to stay.

If you are under the age of 16, you cannot leave freely. In most cases, you need to prove that you are abused or threatened in your current living situation. Once you have proven that your living situation is not safe, you can get a child protective order. That order will state where you should live, and in most cases, that is going to be a relative's home or a foster home.

In order to get a child protective order, you should contact a family lawyer or a police officer. If you are currently in danger or being threatened, you need to call for emergency assistance immediately.

2. Financial services and government assistance

If you end up moving out of your own, you get more than freedom. You also get a lot of responsibility. Luckily, there are a few programs that can help you to pay for your life.

If you are between the ages of 15 and 24, you may be able to get financial help through the Youth Allowance. If you have a child, you can start to claim financial assistance on their behalf as well – if your parents were previously paying for your child's care, they may have claimed the family tax benefit on your child's behalf, but once you assume full responsibility, you earn the right to claim that credit as well as any others.

3. School matters

Under Australian law, everyone under the age of 16 needs to attend school. If you move out when you are 16 or 17, you don't have to attend school. However, if you want to continue your schooling, you can get financial help through programs such as ABSTUDY.

If you are thinking about the future and how you want to support yourself, there are also apprenticeship programs that can help you.

4. Foster care

If you move out at 16 or 17, you usually will not be sent to foster care. In rare cases, you can request that the courts send you to foster care if your own family is abusive. If you get placed in foster care, you will typically stay in foster care until you are 18.

However, if you want to leave foster care to become independent when you are 16 or 17, a family lawyer may be able to help you change the protective order so you can move in with another family member or out on your own.

5. Legal issues and assistance

Navigating the world on your own at any age can be scary, but if you are under 18, it can be even scarier. If you are not sure whether or not you can leave your home legally, if you want protection for an abusive family or if you want your parents to have a new custody arrangement of you, you may need the help of a family lawyer.

These professionals can answer your questions, help you understand the law and help you navigate the legalities of the moving out or emancipation process. If you have a child and your parents are trying to maintain custody of that child due to you being a minor, a family lawyer can also help you with that issue.  

For more information, check out professionals near you.