17 year old, runaway, minor, family law, Torree Breen

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Family Law: The Rights of 17-Year-Old Runaway

posted on October 01, 2012 by Willingham & Cote

by Torree J. Breen, Divorce & Family Law

Unfortunately, when your 17 year old voluntarily runs away, there is very little you can do to secure their return to your household.  As a child custody attorney, I have been asked, “what do I do now that my 17 year old ran away and is staying with their friend?”  There is no simple solution.  The police will unlikely come to the rescue to force your child, who voluntarily ran away, to return to your home, unless your teenager is in danger. 

The courts lack jurisdiction over a 17-year-old runaway to force that runaway to return to their home; therefore, even if the police wanted to assist you, the courts have no power to keep your child in your home.  Specifically, MCL 712A.2 provides that the juvenile courts have power over a juvenile under 17 years of age when they desert their home.   This means that any child that is 17 years old or older will not suffer legal consequences, if they runaway from home.

If your child is under 17 years of age, MCL 722.151 provides any person harboring a juvenile runaway may be charged with a crime for aiding and abetting.  Due to the fact that the courts do not have jurisdiction to charge persons housing runaways with a crime, there is no incentive to return the child to their parents.

Even though the law has a loophole and allows for no ramifications for a 17-year-old runaway, the parents of that child still remain obligated to support the child until the child reaches the age of majority or 18 years of age consistent with MCL 722.3.  Relatives and governmental officials may seek child support from the runaway’s parents through the court system. 

Only time will heal any wounds between a parent and a teenage runaway.  In Michigan, the laws do not ensure the prompt return of a 17-year-old runaway.  Sometimes life lessons are learned the hard way.  The 17-year-old runaway may realize the error of their ways and decide to return to your home.

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