Leaving Home Rights

  1. When can I decide where I want to live?

    In Ontario, at 16 years of age or older, you can generally decide where you want to live and you do not need a legal guardian. You can live with someone else against the wish of your legal guardian. The other person will not be charged with a criminal offence as long as they do not assist you in leaving home.

    If you are under 16 years old, (or if you and your parents live in another province where the age for leaving home is 18 years), your parents can contact the police to have you returned home if you are living in a place that is not safe; in other words, a place where you are at risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

    The Children’s Aid Society can also take you into care and place you away from home.

  2. Can I apply to be “emancipated” from my parents?

    We do not have laws on “emancipation” in Ontario. In some States in the U.S.A., there are emancipation laws which let someone 16 years and older apply to a court, to be free from the custody and control of their parents or guardians and to be responsible for their own support. This process does not exist in Ontario.

  3. What if my parents live apart?

    If your parents live apart and are both asking for custody, you may have some say in where you live. In general, if you are 16 years of age or older, you can decide. If you are under 16 either of your parents can ask the court to appoint the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to represent your views, depending on your ability to understand the situation, in court. You may be able to ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you if your parents refuse.

  4. What if I am under 16 and can’t live at home?

    If you are under 16 years of age, the local Children’s Aid Society (CAS) may be legally required to take you into their care if they believe that you are in need of protection. For example, if your parents kicked you out and you have no place to live, or you are being abused. They may place you with a relative, in a foster care home, or in a group home.

    If you and your parents cannot get along, but you are not in need of protection, you may be able to get a Temporary Care Agreement with CAS. This means you can stay in a foster home or a group home for a while and then return home when things are better.

    If you had to leave home and are staying with a person who CAS believes you are safe with, CAS may allow you to stay with that person.

  5. What can I take when I leave home?

    You have a right to take all of your personal property with you whether you bought it yourself or it was given to you as a gift. This is true at any age.

    This includes all of your identification such as health cards, birth certificates, and passport. These documents are very important and you and should take them with you. If your parents are refusing to let you take your own property you can contact the police or a lawyer for help. The police should help you if you left home to escape from violence or physical abuse.

    Sometimes a family member, a friend, a youth worker or CAS worker can help by having them telephone your parent(s)/guardian(s) to talk to them and/or help pick up your property for you.

  6. Sample letter for recovery of possessions from a parent’s home

    The letter below is one that a youth worker could help you send to your parents/guardians in order to get your belongings back. Call Justice for Children and Youth for a lawyer’s help. Your parents/guardians could be taken to court for not returning your personal belongings.

    Sample Letter

    (insert date)

    Dear _______________,

    I am ____________. I was consulted by _________regarding his personal belongings that are currently in your possession. On their behalf, I request return of the following items:

    1. Ontario Health Insurance Card (OHIP)
    2. Social insurance number (SIN) card

    These items are their legal property. You have no legal authority to withhold them from them. It is especially important that they have possession of their identity documents including their SIN card for many reasons.

    We ask that you arrange to have ______’s documents securely returned to this address:
    (list address)

    If we do not hear from you by ______ (insert date) I will be contacting a lawyer to give _______ legal advice in respect of the legal actions available to him for the return of his property.

    Yours,

    _________________

  7. Can I go to school if I am not living at home?

    Yes. The law requires you to attend school until you are 18 years old or have graduated from high school. If you are 16 years old and have withdrawn from parental control then you can attend school in the school board district where you live and you will have all the same rights as an 18 year old. If you are 16 years or older, and living on your own, you do not need a legal guardian to register for school.

    The school will need proof of your new address and you may have to show some proof that you have withdrawn from parental control. For example, they may ask how you are supporting yourself. You should call Justice for Children and Youth if the school is refusing to enroll you.

    You may need to write a letter to the school or Principal to make sure that you are signed up independently, especially if you want your school information to be kept private from your parent/guardian. Here is a sample letter:

    dd, mmm, yyyy

    Dear Principal <name>,

    My name is _____ and my date of birth is _____. This letter is about my decision to withdraw from parental control. I am living separately and independently of my parents: (Name of parent #1) and (name of parent #2, if relevant).

    My current address is: _________________________________________________________________.

    Previously, I was attending <name of school> at <name of school board>.

    From this date forward, I would like to act as my own legal guardian and have the rights that are given to an eighteen year old as detailed in the Education Act.

    <Optional Statement>:  Additionally, I want to ensure that the details of my education are kept private and confidential from my parents. I do not want them to know which school I am attending or the details of my academics. I do not want my parents to have any access to my private records, or to private information, including my Ontario Student Record.

    Thank you,

    <your signature>

  8. Can I get a job when I leave home?

    Yes, you may work and keep your own wages. However, you are required to be in school if you are less than 18 years old and have not graduated from high school. There are laws that limit the places and times of day that you can work. For example, you cannot work during school hours. Minimum wages can differ, depending on where you work, and whether it is full-time or part-time or summer work. For questions about your employment rights you can:

    • call the Employment Standards Information Centre of the Ministry of Labour at
    • 416-326-7160 or 1-800-531-5551, or visit their website at www.labour.gov.on.ca