Children & teens
Information about family law (including child protection) addressed specifically to children and teens.
At what age can children choose which parent they get to live with?
Many people believe that when children turn 12, they can choose which parent they'll live with, but this isn't true.
When your parents are trying to figure out where you'll live after a separation or divorce, or if a judge is deciding, they have to make the decision based on what's best for you. According to the law, the child's best interests involves a bunch of things — not just what you want but also your relationship with each parent and their ability to take care of you.
If your wishes are based on poor reasons, or your parents or the judge think there are other important facts related to what's best for you, they can decide on living arrangements that you don't agree with.
For more information, see the online fact sheets Guardianship and Custody and the booklet Living Together or Living Apart: Common-Law Relationships, Marriage, Separation, and Divorce.
I'm under 19 years of age. Can I leave home?
In BC, children have the legal right to leave home when they reach 19 years of age (the age of majority). Practically speaking, however, you may choose to leave home before reaching 19.
If I'm under 19 and I've left home, are my parents responsible for supporting me?
In BC, a parent is financially responsible for you until you're 19 years old. A parent is also financially responsible for you if you're 19 or over but unable to support yourself because of illness, disability, or for other reasons (such as attending a post-secondary institution full time).
If you're under 19, have left home voluntarily, and are in need of financial support, your parent(s) must still support you. However, there are exceptions:
- you're a spouse
- you've left home and refuse to return although welcome (unless you left because of family violence or other intolerable circumstances)
The courts have also said that these are exceptions:
- you're living with a boyfriend or girlfriend who's supporting you or helping to support you financially
- you're supporting yourself financially (working and paying bills)
To figure out if you can make a claim for child support, and for community resources, see our fact sheet Can you sue your parents for support?
Can a child be "emancipated" in BC?
"Emancipation" isn't a legal concept in BC.
Emancipation generally refers to the legal process for a minor (a person under the age of majority) to become legally separate from their parents or guardians. If a minor is emancipated, parents can’t make decisions for them and aren't financially responsible for them.
Emancipation is recognized in some places outside BC, including Québec and the United States.
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