LawRefs Customized Legal Information
Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Michigan Runaways

Can a 16 year old leave home without permission? No. If the individual is under age 18, they are a “minor”. MCL 722.1. The age of majority in Michigan is 18. MCL 722.52. A child can leave home with permission, however, it is still the parents obligation to support their minor children unless the court modifies or terminates the obligation via a petition for emancipation, or the minor is emancipated by operation of law. MCL 722.3.

“Emancipation” means termination of the rights of the parents to the custody, control, services and earnings of a minor. Emancipation can occur by court order pursuant to a petition filed, or by operation of law if certain conditions are met. An emancipation occurs by operation of law when a minor is validly married; when he/she reaches age 18; during active duty with the armed forces; and to consent to certain care when in the custody of a law enforcement agency and when incarcerated.

If a child leaves home without permission, the child should be reported missing and the Department of Human Services should be contacted as Department agents can requisition the child back into the jurisdiction and help set in motion charges against anyone who aids the child knowing they are a runaway. It is against the law for any person to knowingly and willfully aid or abet a child under the age of 17 years to violate an order of a juvenile court or knowingly and willfully conceal or harbor juvenile runaways who have taken flight from the custody of the court, their parents or legal guardian. Violation is a misdemeanor with fine of not more than $500.00 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both. MCL 722.151 and MCL 722.152.

A parent can give permission to a 16-year-old child to leave home and live somewhere else, however, they are still obligated to support the child.

An ancillary bit of information is that the parent has the right to contact the child’s employer and direct the employer to pay the parent directly. This is because until the child is age 18, the parents of an unemancipated minor are entitled to the custody, control, services and earnings of the minor. This could be used to coerce the child back home, but it may also just coerce the child to quit the job and find another.

ADDITIONAL ARTICLE related to this topic


  1. My mother is mentally abusive to me(16) and my little sister(14). Last night she tried kicking down my door. I want to go stay with my boyfriend for the night but she will report me as a run away. Is this even running away? If I tell her where I’m going, is it still considered running away?

    • Dear Harlee:

      I would argue that it is not running away to go to a friend’s house for the night and tell your mom where you are at.

  2. Can I get in trouble if I’m 22 years old and a ward of the state of Michigan and I wanted to run away?

  3. Do you know of a way I can live with an Aunt or some other family member at 14? My dad emotionally, mentally, and verbally abuses me and I’ve had to deal with it for years. My mom looks the other way or is on my dad’s side when it does happen. Is there any way I can finally leave? I’ve waited for years to turn 14 in hopes that there was.

    • Dear Skype S.

      Consider starting to lay a foundation by keeping a journal, which you keep in a private place, such as your school locker. In it document what your dad does to you and how your mom responds. Consider asking your parents to set up an appointment with a counselor or psychologist so that you can have some “talk therapy” and letting them know that you are struggling and need this for your health and to learn coping skills so that you can reach your highest functioning. Consider also starting a discussion with your school counselor. If you lay the proper groundwork and set forth your intention, the path will unfold for you.

      Please note that I have used key terms/phrases that will be useful later, so consider using the terms I have stated: “talk therapy”, “am struggling”, “need this for my health”, “to learn coping skills’, “so I can reach my highest functioning”. The journal is also key.

  4. I am 18 years old and left my house. My mother is saying that I’m not actually legally emancipated until I graduate? I’m fairly sure this isn’t true but I would like clarification. Am I allowed to live somewhere else?

    • Dear Regan:

      Fly like the adult you are! At 18 you are an adult and can live where ever you want.

      • What if I’m 13 and I want to runaway?

        • Dear Mike:

          If you are having trouble at home at your age you have the option to talk to your school counselor, your doctor/nurse, a church leader, or a police officer. You can call Child Protective Services and ask for help from them. If you run away, the police may be called and you may be reported as a ‘runaway’. Start talking to others about your situation and being hopeful for the solutions on their way to you now.

  5. I have been getting verbally abused by my mom and I’m not happy at home. I believe this abuse is mental abuse. I want to go stay with my dad in Florida with my 2-year-old child. I want to know the right papers to file where I have a say in where I live since I’m not 18 yet.