Currently Bear is under the impression that here in Texas he can move out when he turns 17. We've been talking about the fact that he still wouldn't be able to do anything that involves contracts (rent an apartment, buy a car, register for school, etc.), but he thinks he's gotten around this because he claims the mom of a female friend plans to rent an apartment for a bunch of teens. He would get a job within walking distance and continue to go to school.
I haven't told Bear yet, but I spent most of Sunday night (up till 3am!) researching this and what I found out is that NO Bear cannot legally move out when he is 17. We can (and would) report him as a runaway and the police are legally obligated to return him to us (by force if necessary - children are technically like property in this sense!). If he becomes a chronic runaway he can get in trouble with the court.
If he does as suggested and moves in with this girl and her mom (if an adult doesn't live there then I think she is breaking the terms of her lease) then the mom can be charged with harboring a runaway, or if he is doing any of the things I'm assuming he plans to (sex, drugs, alcohol...), then she could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The only ways he can legally "get away from us" before age 18 are:
- If we choose to find a competent, legal adult who is willing to be his legal guardian (in other words he is still a child just with another adult legally responsible for him).
- If we allow him to marry or join the military. Neither of which are going to happen!
- If he chooses to become emancipated.
Becoming emancipated is not an option for Bear. He has to prove the ability to live on his own, or at least not with an adult relative supporting him. Among other things this means he has to find a job and make a living wage. Most importantly though he has to show that there is a reason our parental rights should be removed. Which is pretty much impossible since we're good parents.
Should be interesting to see how he takes this. I have legal documents to back me up so he can't really argue it... well he can argue about anything he wants to, but... well, you know what I mean!
So we have another year and a half before we have to deal with this again. Maybe by then, Bear will have gotten to a better place in his life and will be willing to stay with us and finish high school (if he stays on track he doesn't graduate until one month before his 19th birthday). We are lucky in that the state of Nebraska's legal age is 19 so if Bear does choose to stay with us, he will continue to have Medicaid (although it will be Nebraska Medicaid) and we will continue to have his adoption support money, most of which we should hopefully be able to save for him to live on while he's in college (or whatever he chooses to do).