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Leaving Home

Leaving Home

Leaving home is one of the most difficult decisions you may make as a young person if you choose to leave home.
People leave home for lots of different reasons:  to be more independent; to work or study in another town; to live with friends or a partner; because of arguments, hassles or too many rules at home; because home just isn’t a safe place to be anymore.

Because leaving home is such an important decision, make sure you think through your options thoroughly before taking any steps.
For some practical advice about flatting and renting, click here.

My home is unsafe and I’m being abused, what can I do?

If you are being physically, emotionally, and / or sexually abused, then you may need to get out of home, no matter how old you are. You may leave home or be removed from home for your own protection.

When it’s not safe at home, find someone you can trust to talk to.  If you don’t have a sympathetic adult (like a school counsellor, teacher, church leader, youth worker or relative) whom you trust, there are some agencies that can help, including:

If it’s an emergency, phone the Police on 111.

If you would like some temporary advice, you can call YouthLaw or your local community law centre.

I am leaving home because it’s unsafe to stay, what should I take with me?

If you are leaving because it is unsafe to stay, try and take with you:

  • identification papers (birth certificate, passport, driver licence)
  • money
  • bank cards (including bank account card)
  • any medical supplies you need, especially prescription medicines
  • phone numbers of friends, family, doctor, school

There are things you can do to protect yourself from an unsafe home environment, including getting a Protection Order, involving the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki or the Police, or changing your care arrangements.  Give us a call for more information.

When can I leave home?

You can leave home without your parents’ or guardians’ consent at the age of 16. But, if the police think you are “at risk” because you are, for example, mixing with the wrong people or becoming involved in crime, they may intervene and organise a Family Group Conference or take you home.  Generally, the police would not get involved if you have a safe place to live and you can financially support yourself.

If your parents are worried, they can apply to the Family Court to put you under the guardianship of the Court where the Court can make major decisions for you until you are 18. Even if this happens, the Court will only make decisions about where you live if there are really good reasons for doing so.

Until you reach the age of 18, your parents remain your legal guardians. If your parents believe that you lack the maturity and judgment to live away from home (for example, if your mental functioning is damaged), they can apply to the Family Court for a warrant. This warrant gives the parent’s rights to provide you with day-to-day care.

I’m under 16 years old, can I leave home?

Your parents or guardians are legally responsible for you until you are 18 years old.  While you are under 16 years, you can only leave home if your parents agree and if they have made adequate arrangements for your care, such as a safe place to live, clothing, food, education and medical care.

If you are abused or neglected, you may call the Police on 111. You can also call MCOT who may also take over the care for you until you turn 17 if they think you’re in an unsafe environment.

If you’re unsure, call us at YouthLaw and we may be able to give you some information on your situation.

If I leave home, what do I need to know before leaving?

Plan your departure. Leaving home means more independence and more freedom, but it also means more responsibilities and it can be expensive and lonely. Planning is very important; “crashing” on a friend’s floor is a short-term option only.  It would not be comfortable or private and if you overstay your welcome or don’t pay your way, it could mean the end of your friendship.  Make sure you discuss your plans with your friend and your friend’s family before moving in if you choose to live with a friend. Save enough before you leave to set yourself up.


How much money do I need to prepare before I leave home?

You will need money for board or rent, bond, power, phone, food and travel costs. Decide when, how and with whom you are staying with before leaving, and what your long-term accommodation plan is.  If you do not have a job or money, you will need to check if you can claim any benefits before leaving.  Get in touch with your local Work and Income New Zealand  (WINZ) office to see what you are entitled to before leaving. It’s not a good plan to wing it, that could leave you homeless.

If you would like some temporary advice, contact us at YouthLaw.

What can I take with me when I leave home?

You can take:

  • your personal clothing and accessories,
  • anything you have bought with your own money,
  • anything bought especially for you eg. bike, radio,
  • any personal documents such as your passport, drivers licence, birth certificate,
  • any hire purchase or layby items in your name, and
  • anything else your parents have agreed you can take.

You can’t take:

  • any property that is owned by your parents, another family member or anyone else, and
  • anything attached to or built into the house – fitted carpets, built-in furniture etc.

Grey areas

The law is unclear about some types of property, such as furniture in your bedroom, pillows, sheets, and blankets.  If your parents and you cannot agree on what you should take, you could make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal where a decision can be made about whether you own the property that you want to take for a fee.

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