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Leaving home 

Legal Information

How do I know if I'm mature enough to leave home?

Leaving home is a big decision. Most of us get advice before we make big decisions. Before you decide to leave home, it's a good idea to talk to someone you trust and think about what it will mean. As a guide, you can normally start to make your own decisions about how to live your life if you understand what the decision involves and what the consequences will be.

If you and your parents and you are not getting along, there might be someone who can help you and your family talk things through. This could be another member of your family, a trusted family friend or a trained counsellor.

If you are leaving home, consider what personal things you will need to take with you like personal documents, clothes, school books and personal effects. Sometimes you may need the help of another member of your family or a trusted family friend to help you negotiate this with your parents.

When does the law say I am old enough to leave home?

Generally your parents are your legal guardians and it is expected that you will live with your family until you turn 18. However, there is no law in Queensland which says you must stay at home until you are 18.

Once you are 16 you will normally not be forced to return home by the authorities (the police, the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, or the Children's Court) as long as you have a safe place to go and you can support yourself financially.

In deciding whether to intervene the authorities will consider your parents' attitude, your level of maturity, your access to satisfactory accommodation and income and whether you are in a safe place. Centrelink benefits are usually only available once you turn 16. There are special circumstances when they are available under 16.

If you are under 16 the police and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services can investigate the reasons why you have left. If they think you are in need of protection from harm or abuse they can make an application for a child protection order. This order will say where you should live.

Children in need of care or under a child protection order

There are laws to protect children and young people who are not being properly cared for, do not have a safe place to live or are suffering harm (such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse).

Anyone who thinks that you are in need of protection can contact the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services with their concerns. This could be a teacher, a health worker, the police or someone else who is concerned about you. Some people, like doctors and nurses, are required by law to tell the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services if they suspect you are being harmed.

If the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services thinks that you need protection, they will make an application to the Children's Court for a child protection order. A child protection order will normally say where you should live. This could be with your parents, or with another relative or a foster parent.

If you are on a child protection order, you need to talk to your child safety officer from the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services if you want to change where you live. You can also get legal advice about this.

Children under a parenting order from the family court

When you turn 18 parenting orders made by a family court no longer apply and you are free to choose where you want to live.

If you are under 18 and there are parenting orders in place and you want them changed you should get legal advice.

Acknowledgement - Prepared using fact sheets which are copyright to the Commonwealth of Australia, National Legal Aid and the National Children’s Law Centre.

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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you

  • want to leave home because you don't feel safe or you don't get along with your parents
  • want to live with your other parent
  • want more contact with the parent you don't live with, or you want to see more of your siblings
  • know there are court orders about you and you want them changed.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on leaving home and other issues about your family situation.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

Lawmail is a legal advice service for young people that provides free legal advice to people under 18 via email.

Youth Advocacy Centre provides a community legal and social welfare service for young people under 17.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services  is the government department responsible for protecting children and young people from harm or who are at risk of harm, and whose parents cannot provide adequate care or protection for them.

Office of the Public Guardian is an independent body, working to protect the rights and interests of children and young people in out-of-home care (foster care, kinship care), residential care, youth detention and other supported accommodation.

Create is a not for profit organisation helping young people placed in out-of-home care, including young people who are unable to live with their parents and may be in living in foster care, with relatives or community, group homes or some other form of independent living.

headspace helps young people (12-25 years old) access health advice, support and information. offer information for young people about dealing with family and other relationships, and learning to manage independence.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 1 July 2007 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 8 September 2015 10:30AM
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Leaving home