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Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Georgia Runaway Law – Especially with Regard to 17-year-olds

A Georgia 17-year-old could leave home but they may have to answer why if there is an allegation that they are a “deprived child” or a “runaway”.


Georgia law provides that a runaway is a “deprived child” if they do not have proper parental care or control, subsistence, education, or other control necessary for your physical, mental, or emotional health or morals. It also provides that a 17-year-old is a “status offender” if they are truant; runaway; are incorrigible; or if they are “unruly”, which is a very broad term that encompasses status offender and other bad acts that are habitually done. OCGA 15-11-2. Status offenses are those that are based upon the age or status of the person. If there is such an allegation, the teen could be picked up by the police. Having a need to leave home because of an abusive or neglectful parent would be a defense providing “just cause” for leaving home without consent.

Important!  Upon a parent’s request, the first proceeding against a runaway will be dismissed.  OCGA 15-11-64.

Interstate Compact:  Georgia has also adopted the Interstate Compact on Juveniles, which means that they participate in assisting in returning runaway children back to their home state. OCGA 39-3-1.

Get help.  If you have a parent who is involved with drugs or excessive use of alcohol, or if you are abused or neglected, you need to get help. It is very difficult to survive without help. Consider making a report to the police or the Department of Human Services. Research ways to cope such as: don’t respond to arguments; stay out of their space; hang out at a friends most of the time (which is just like leaving home but hopefully you don’t have to fight about it); pick up after yourself, etc. etc.

Don’t move, TRANSITION.  Is there really a need to state that you are moving out?  Consider instead, leaving without making any declaration and keeping in touch as usual.  If you must, describe the leave in “temporary” terms.  For example, say that having a little break, helps you clear your head and gain a fresh new perspective.  A temporary leave is easier to accept than a permanent leave.  As time passes, the situation will unfold naturally.  Do expect to follow rules everywhere, and have hope that it won’t be long and age 18 arrives.  Stay in school, get a job, volunteer, create the life you want.

Georgia law:
OCGA 39-1-1 Age of legal majority
OCGA 39-3-1 Interstate Compact on Juveniles
OCGA 15-11-2 Definitions
OCGA 15-11-64 First proceeding dismissed
Link to the Georgia Department of Human Services: Georgia DHS
Link to Useful Website on Alcoholism:
Georgia Compulsory School Attendance Law

This article and the responses to comments below are to be considered informational. They are not to be considered individual legal advice. This website does not provide a basis to establish all the facts of any given situation. It is not intended to create an an attorney-client relationship, and more importantly, I am not licensed as an attorney in Georgia.


  1. I am 12. My mom is abusive. I wanna’ run away. I live in Florida and have a friend who lives in Georgia. He is the only one I have. I don’t feel safe in this house. My family hates me. I need help. The cops were here and didn’t help. I told them that my mom is abusive and she hits, but I don’t get marks. Therefor I have no proof. I need help. Should I leave?
    What do I do?

    • Dear Rin:

      It’s tough being that you are only 12. Perhaps you should talk with your school counselor and if she won’t help, then perhaps there is a teen shelter where you could seek. At your age, if you runaway, you are quite vulnerable – an easy target for predators. I like the idea of you seeking out as much help as possible by telling people until you get help, like your school counselor, teachers, friend’s parents, someone at church, etc. If you know someone who has a phone, record the next abusive incident. Also, consider contacting Child Protective Services at their abuse hotline: 1-800-962-2873.

  2. I have an unruly child who has been verbally abusive to me. He is 17 years old and will turn 18 in 5 months. Can I just kick him out on his 18th birthday? The police just left my house and said that I may have to get a lawyer to do an eviction when he turns 18. I really want to be prepared for when his turns 18 so I do not have to endure is aggressiveness anymore.

  3. I am 16 and will be turning 17 soon, I live in California and have had excessive physical altercations with my mother I do have pictures of what bruises and scratches I had. I want to leave this house and resume my life in Georgia but am afraid that I will be returned to my home state if my mother reports me as a runaway. Is there any way I can prevent this from happening?

    • Dear Edelmida:

      If you are being abused you have the absolute right to take yourself out of that situation. I have no information on the lengths that California will go to assist your mom in returning you home. If a petition were filed to bring you back, you would have an opportunity to have an attorney and to be heard as to why you should not return. Therefore, keep your photos in support of your defense if necessary.