Parents often threaten to kick their children out of their homes, and sometimes they even follow through. But is it legal to do so?
While there might be some disagreement over parenting styles and child rearing, state and federal laws take a very dim view when it comes to endangering or abandoning children -- unless the minors are emancipated.
What does this mean for parents?
If the Minor Is Emancipated
A court can sever the legal obligation parents have to provide their children with food, clothing, and education by granting an emancipation petition, giving the child adult responsibility for her own welfare.
Children cannot petition to be emancipated until they are at least 16 years old in most states; in some places like California, minors as young as 14 can be emancipated.
Once a minor is legally emancipated, parents no longer have to feed, house, or pay child support for the emancipated minor.
If the Minor Is Not Emancipated
Kicking an underage child (meaning under 18 in most states) out of the house, without the child being emancipated, can often be considered child abandonment, which is a crime.
Even if you aren't leaving your child on a proverbial street corner, you will be legally abandoning her if you:
- Leave your child with a neighbor and don't communicate with her;
- Fail to send some sort of money to support her, or
- Refuse to participate in a plan by a school or program to reunite you and your child.
Also keep in mind that depending on the laws of your state, a neighbor or school administrator in these cases may be legally required to report a parent for child abandonment.
If the Minor Runs Away
Generally, parents are still legally bound to care for and support their underage children who run away. However, if a child runs away and joins the military or gets legally married, the child may also be automatically emancipated, ending a parent's legal obligation to care for her.
Remember, a parent is still legally required to try to communicate with their unemancipated minor children, even if they're non-responsive or incredibly frustrating. For legal advice on what to do in your specific situation, consult an experienced family law attorney in your state.
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