We continue with our series on runaway laws by state with the southern states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Can I Move Out at 17 in the Southern States? - Runaway Laws

I need to leave home. Can I move out at 17?

The National Runaway Safeline is a resource for runaway teens and homeless youth who are in need of help. Our crisis call center staff is available to provide information to our callers on services near their locations, who often call to ask if they can move out at 17, or younger. We can also provide information on the runaway laws in their state. We do not provide legal advice, but we can relay the laws that exist in their location.

In order to better serve youth and families, we are compiling the legal information by state for easy reference.

*Our main source of information is the comprehensive report, Alone Without A Home: A State-By-State Review of Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth, created by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

In our next chapter, we are focused on the Southern states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

*DISCLAIMER: We are not legal experts. Laws can be interpreted differently from county to county and police jurisdiction to police jurisdiction. Everyone’s situation is unique, but we are here 24/7 to help you figure out a plan for your specific situation. For information, please call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY or visit us at 1800RUNAWAY.org.

Kentucky Age of a minor: Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: Kentucky defines runaway youth as any child who has been found by the court to have been absent from his/her place of lawful residence without the permission of his/her custodian for at least three days during a one year period.

Is running away a status offense: Yes, it is considered a status offense in Kentucky. A runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. The peace officer shall then contact a court-designated worker who shall determine the appropriate placement for the youth.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Sorry. There is no statute speaking generally about the emancipation process was found, but the state does recognize emancipation in other statutes.

Tennessee Age of a minor: Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: This is defined in Tennessee as any child who is away from his/her home, residence, or any other residential placement of the child’s guardians without their consent. A runaway may also be referred to as an unruly child.

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not a status offense in Tennessee. A runaway youth may be declared an unruly child by the juvenile court. An unruly child may be subject to probation, a fine, or community service.

Can a youth file for emancipation:  Yes. Tennessee has a unique legal statute on emancipation. The minor may have a next friend petition for the removal of the disabilities of minority in the chancery court in the county the minor resides. The petition must state, among other things, the reason on which the removal of the disability is sought. If a decree is rendered removing the disability of a minor, the decree will be rendered for a specific purpose and the purpose will be stated in the decree. The decree may be for the partial removal of the disability to enable the minor to do some particular act or for the general removal of the disability. If general emancipation is granted, the minor will have all of the rights of an 18 year old, including the right to contract, sue and be sued, and buy and sell property.

Runaway Laws for Youth in the Southern States

Alabama Age of a minor: Any person under 19 years of age and not a child.

Runaway status: In Alabama, there is no specific definition, but could be classified as a missing child. Under state law, a missing child is a child who voluntarily leaves the care and control of the child’s guardian without intent to return and without the guardian’s consent.

Is running away a status offense: No. In Alabama, it is not a status offense. Runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. As soon as reasonably possible, the police officer must return the youth to the custody of the youth’s guardian, unless the youth’s placement in detention or shelter care appears required.

Can a youth file for emancipation:  Yes. The parent(s) of any minor may file a petition with the court requesting that the minor be emancipated, or any minor 18 years of age or older may petition for emancipation. This must be filed in the county that either the parent(s) or the minor resides.

Mississippi  Age of a minor: Any person under 21 years of age.

Runaway status: In Mississippi, there is no specific definition, but could be classified as a child in need of supervision.

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not a status offense. A runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. The police officer shall then either release the child into the custody of the child’s guardian or bring the youth before the Youth Court.

Can a youth file for emancipation: Yes. The minor may petition for emancipation by having his or her next friend apply in writing. The petition must state the age of the minor, join as defendants his or her parent(s) then living (and if neither are living, two of his/her adult kin within the third degree), and the reasons on which the removal of disability is sought.

Louisiana Age of a minor: In Louisiana, this is defined as any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: This is defined as any person under 18 years of age who is absent from his/her legal residence without the consent of his/her guardian.

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not considered an offense. A runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a peace officer if the peace officer has reason to believe that the child’s family is in need of service.

Can a youth file for emancipation:  Yes. The state recognizes three types of emancipation (a) judicial emancipation, where a court may order for good cause the full or limited emancipation of a minor 16 years of age or older, (b) emancipation by marriage, and (c) limited emancipation by authentic act, which confers upon a minor 16 years of age or older the capacity to make the kinds of juridical acts specified therein, unless otherwise provided by law.

Arkansas Age of a minor:  Any person under 18 years of age.

Runaway status: No specific definition, but could be classified as a child of a family in need of services. Under state law, a family in need of services means, among other things, any family whose juvenile has absented him/herself from the home without sufficient cause, permission, or justification.

Is running away a status offense: No. It is not an offense. A youth may be taken into custody without a warrant if it is clear that the youth in danger and taking custody of the youth is necessary to prevent serious harm, a parent or guardian is unavailable or has not taken action necessary to protect the youth from the danger, and there is not time to petition for and obtain an order of the court before taking the youth into custody.

Can a youth file for emancipation: yes. A minor may petition for the removal of the disabilities of minority in the circuit court in the county in which he/she resides. The minor must be at least 16 years of age. Notice of the petition must be given to the parents of the minor.

We hope you found this helpful. For more information, you can reach us at 1800RUNAWAY.org, on our chat page, on email, visit our forum, or text at 66008.

Related Articles: Are you living in a different state? Find your state and the related information below:

Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho

Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona

West Virginia, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Georgia and Florida

Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania

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  • Hannah

    Hey, I am 17 years old and I am constantly facing emotional and sometimes physical abuse by my brother. My mother doesn’t stop the issue, therefore it has gotten worse than it originally was! I’ve called the police on him before but they wouldn’t let me file w report because I am under 21. I live in Alabama. I don’t have the money to file for emancipation. What can I do? Can I run away!?

  • Hi, Hannah. Thank you for finding our blog, and for choosing to reach out to us. The situation you describe sounds like it has really difficult to deal with. We are here to listen to you and to help.

    Our crisis services center is available 24-7 to listen to your concerns, help you to create a plan of action that will keep you safe and off the streets, as well as provide referrals to services in your area that can help.

    In order to access this service, we ask that you please give us a call at 1-800-RUNAWAY, or send us an email or use our live chat function through our website, 1800RUNAWAY.org. We hope to hear from you soon.