What rights do I have as a minor?

Recently on our divorce forum a user asked, “My parents recently divorced. I am sixteen years old, and I do not want to live with either parent. What are my rights? Do I have the right to choose to live with someone else like a friend or my grandmother?”

Rights of a minor

As you have probably realized, as a minor, you do have all of the rights as an adult. For example, you do not have the right to vote, to own property, to consent to your own medical care, sue other individuals, or enter into any type of contractual agreement. All of these decisions are made by your parents or legal guardians.

Just because you do not have any of the rights outlined above, however, does not mean that you do not have many basic rights, many of which are protected under state or federal laws. For example, the state will ensure that you are receiving adequate healthcare, education, and good nutrition. In fact, if your parents or guardian fail to provide any of these basic rights the state has the authority to remove you from your parent’s care and place you in a healthy and safe environment.

You also have the right to equal protection under the law, which means you cannot be discriminated against for your race, gender, disability, or religion.

The good news is that your rights also expand as you age. For example, if you are sixteen years of age you now have the option to find employment, or if your parents have divorced, you may have some say in where you are placed after the divorce.

Can I choose where I live as a minor?

Now, you specifically asked if you could choose who would live following a divorce. Unfortunately, a minor does not have the right to choose their residence. The decision is made by your legal guardian or your parent.

Under certain conditions, however, someone other than your parent may petition for your parent’s parental rights to be terminated. For example, if you have been reared by your grandmother because your mother was on drugs and your father was dead, your grandmother might have some standing to request the termination or your mother’s parental rights, assuming she could prove that your mother was an unfit parent (e.g., mother injured you, abandoned you, mother is still using drugs).

Can I become an emancipated minor?

Another option you may or may not have considered, however, is whether or not you could become an emancipated minor. State laws vary so you would need to review the laws for your state. But in the State of Texas, for instance, as a 16 year old you, could petition for emancipation, assuming you live apart from your parents and you are able to support yourself.

If you successfully petition for emancipation as a minor you will have rights that other minors do not have. Specifically, you could choose where to live and manage your own medical treatment.

Bottom line:

Unless you are able to emancipate yourself, as a sixteen year old, you will not have the ability to determine where you can live. Your parents will have the authority to make this decision, or the courts will make this decision if your parents cannot agree.

In some cases, however, the judge may consider your wishes and allow you to choose which parent to live with, especially if you are able to convince him that your choice is in your best interest.

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