Answer: A 17-year-old can live alone in California, as there are no laws we could find in California preventing it.
But at that age, a teen still the responsibility of their parents or legal guardians unless they are emancipated.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain more about the rights of a 17-year-old.
Can a 17-Year-Old Live Alone in California? (Discussion)
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Can a 17-Year-Old Move Out?
A mature 17-year-old may feel like they’re an adult and want to move out of their parent’s house, or there may be circumstances at home that make the teen want to move (substance abuse, violence, disagreements).
There are no laws which prevent a 17-year-old from living alone or away from his parents.
However, the teen still considered a minor, according to California laws.
Consenting parents are therefore responsible for their expenses, liabilities, and for providing them with accommodation.
But if their parents don’t agree, the only way to lawfully move out over the parents’ objections is by becoming emancipated.
Can a 17-Year-Old Lease an Apartment in California?
At 17 years old, a teen is not allowed to lease an apartment as they’re still a minor.
To lease an apartment without an adult co-signor, an individual needs to be 18 years old.
Emancipation is an exception to that requirement.
Once emancipated, they’ll be considered an adult and can therefore undertake adult legal responsibilities.
This includes signing a lease, as well as buying and selling properties.
Who Is Eligible for Emancipation?
For a teen to be emancipated, they must meet certain requirements as highlighted below:
- In California, a teen can be emancipated as long as they’re over the age of 14.
- They need to prove to the court that they’re mature enough to take care of themselves and deal with adult matters.
- They must show that they can support themselves financially. This goes beyond showing that they receive benefits or have a job. They must also show that they have enough cash to meet basic expenses like food, rent, and other essentials.
If a 17-year-old seeks a declaration of emancipation, the 17-year-old is required to send their notice of emancipation petition to their legal guardian or parents and give them time to respond.
Contested cases often go to hearing, where both parties are allowed to argue against or for emancipation.
It should be noted that:
- Active duty members of the armed forces of the United States are considered emancipated minors
- A person who has been married (even if they are now divorced) is also considered an emancipated minor
This means that a married teen or a teen in the armed forces would not have to go through the emancipation court process.
Benefits of Emancipation
Most 17-year-olds will not bother to enter into the process of legal emancipation, as the process can be costly and lengthy, and the 17-year-old will probably turn 18 before the process is complete anyway.
But for those who are still young enough, there are many benefits of emancipation, especially for someone coming from an extreme family dynamic, such as:
- the power to enter into contracts (phone, utilities, residential)
- separate personal finances from that of the family members
- ability to obtain important government documents for identity or travel
- enroll in the school of choice
- apply for and receive public benefits
- make own healthcare decisions (including doctor and type of care)
- make their own will
The financial component is often a primary objective of emancipation for wealthy young people (like child stars).
This lets them choose which contracts to enter instead of only limiting themselves to what their parents decide.
They also get to control their finances, preventing their legal guardians or parents from squandering it all.
It’s worth noting that while a teen can live alone at 17, they’re still not allowed to use tobacco, consume alcohol, or vote until you get to the minimum legal age.
Applying For Housing After Emancipation
Once emancipated, the teen can apply for housing, providing copies of the court documents during the application process.
Some landlords might not be very comfortable leasing a property to a teenager, especially if the teenager has no adult co-signor, references, or rental history.
But if the teen has a solid income, meets all the required qualifications and present themselves well, eventually they’ll find a landlord willing to let them rent their apartment.
What If The Adults Object To The Move Out and/or Emancipation?
There are many legitimate reasons why a 17-year-old might want to leave their living arrangements with their parents, relatives, or even foster parents, even if the adults object.
That being said, leaving without permission, support, or the legal approval of the courts (runaway) rarely puts the teen in a position to succeed on his own.
Teens who are couch surfing, living in a car, or bunking with other homeless teens may not have the documents they need to find employment (like their driver’s license, social security card, birth certificates), the space or technology to do their homework to successfully finish school, or even be able to keep themselves safe.
They may not have their own insurance (health or automobile).
A teen might seek the assistance (or advice) of an attorney to help him navigate the process of freeing himself of his living situation.
If the teen can’t afford an attorney, there are many legal aid centers in the state that could offer low cost or free consultations to help guide him.
The teen may also seek out trustworthy adults at his school, doctor’s office, or even friends’ parents for support.
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