Scenario by PLE Team Member Inez Leutenegger, legal info by JFCY
To her peers, Lukie has appears to have had a typically ‘normal’ teenage life. Just having turned sixteen two months ago, she has recently received her driver’s permit. She is in grade 11 and enjoys being a part of the school’s cross country and soccer teams. Her friends are a tight knit group who enjoy spending time together. Lukie has always been laid back and easy going, the life of the party who, at the same time, is able to maintain solid grades in her classes at school. 

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Lately, though, Lukie’s friends and teachers have seen a change in her academic, athletic and social life. She has been skipping classes, neglecting her homework and doing bad on tests. As a result, her overall marks are starting to slip, and her teachers are concerned. She seems to be distracted at practices, and her commitment to the sports teams at school seems to be faltering.  She is also becoming increasingly withdrawn and distant from her tight knit group of friends. 

Since her parents’ divorce two years ago, Lukie’s home life has been tough. She lives with her mother who  recently lost her job. Money is tight. Her mother’s boyfriend has been living in their home for the past six months, and his violent nature has resulted in the physical abuse of both Lukie and her mother. Lukie has not had contact with her biological father since his parents have separated. 

Lukie is slowly beginning to feel as though her home life is becoming unbearable and does not think she can wait another two years until she has graduated high school to move out. Lukie has been contemplating leaving home and living on her own, but the thought is scary and there are so many questions that run through her head.  She has confided her desire to move away from home to her best friend Brian and his parents, who seem willing to help Lukie in her situation. Lukie must weigh her options before making the big decision to live away from home.

Can Lukie leave home?
Lukie is 16.  According to Ontario law, people who are 16 and older can withdraw from parental control and leave home.  They do not need anyone’s permission to do this. However, if youth leave home voluntarily (ie in the absence of abuse, neglect or serious conflict) their parents do not have to support them financially. It can get complicated. Lukie should talk to a family law lawyer about whether her parents owe her a legal obligation to provide her financial support if she leaves home. 

What can Lukie take with her?
Lukie can take all of her personal property with her.  That includes things like clothes or school supplies that only she uses.  It doesn’t matter whether Lukie bought those things or if she received them as a gift.  Lukie should take all of her identification: her health card, birth certificate, and passport, for example. She will need her ID in order to be safe and to access support programs and services.

How can Lukie balance school and work?
Lukie is required to attend school until she is 18 or graduates from high school.  She can get a job – lots of people have jobs in high school – but she cannot work during school hours and the kind of workshe can do might be limited.  For example, she is too young to serve alcohol in a restaurant.  She can also be paid a reduced minimum wage as long as she is in school and working fewer than 28 hours per week.
To learn more about laws relating to youth and work, check out this blog post.

How Else Can Lukie Support Herself?
Lukie may be eligible to receive social assistance through Ontario Works, which is available to 16 and 17 year-olds in special circumstances.  Since Lukie has been a victim of abuse in the home, she should qualify to receive Ontario Works, as long as he is enrolled in full-time school. She may need someone else, such as a Guidance Counselor or social worker, to verify the abuse.

Where can Lukie go to live?
Since Lukie is 16, there are no legal restrictions to her living with Brian’s family. In fact, if Lukie is staying with them long-term then they can ask to have the Child’s Tax Benefit and Ontario Child Benefit paid to them to help support her.  This money is supposed to be paid to the adult who is housing and caring for a minor.  It cannot be paid directly to the minor. Lukie can also rent an apartment to live in by herself.  Because Lukie is sixteen who has withdrawn from parental control, the Ontario Human Rights Code makes it illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to Lukie just because she is young. 

For more legal information about leaving home, check out this JFCY publication
Leaving home is not easy. There are many social and legal issues that arise for young people. If you are planning to leave home, or you have been forced to leave home, you can call JFCY for legal advice at 416-920-1633.

Leaving Home comic by Adrianna Pahuta, PLE Team Member