It is a myth that children can leave home at age 16

Q: Years ago, when our son and his wife were filing for a divorce, they brought their son to our house and asked us to care for him.

He has been with us ever since. We did not ask the courts for custody of our grandson. That did not appear to be an issue. We knew that our son had legal guardianship for him and that seemed to work.

Our son would drop off the occasional health-care card for our grandson and then our son would head over to the school to sign the necessary forms to give us access to our grandson’s school records and progress reports.

Everything seemed to be workable.

But lately, something has come up that is worrisome to us.

Our grandson is now 14 years old. Someone in his school has told him that he will be an adult when he turns 16 and can then move out and live where he chooses. My husband and I are just sick about this.

Our grandson is not the most mature kid in the world and to think of him out there and on his own when he is so young is scary. But we do not know what to do about this. Can you give us some direction?

A: I think that your grandson has fallen victim to the same mythology that seems to haunt any number of kids whose parents divorce each other.

The mythology that says a child can be an adult when he or she is 16 years old is wrong. Two provinces, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador, say that a child is no longer a child at 16. But neither they, nor any other province, say that a child at 16 is an adult. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland might not see a 16-year-old as a child, but they still see him or her as a minor.

An adult is measured by the age of majority, which is the age at which a person, formerly a minor or an infant, is recognized by law to be an adult, capable of managing his or her own affairs and responsible for any legal obligations created by his or her own actions.

In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan the age of majority is 18. In British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and the Yukon, the age of majority is 19.

Although not considered adults, 16-year-old kids have a few more rights than they had before they turned 16. They can drive a car, apply for a social insurance number, get a job (depending on the company the job could be full time if they are not going to school) and join a union.

Youths aged 16 can consent to intimacy (as long as the other person is less than five years older than they are). And they can give consent for their health care if their physician is comfortable accepting their signature on the consent for care.

The list of opportunities for kids who are 16 gets even larger if they are able to get written consent from either their parents or their guardians. With consent, a 16-year-old can marry, have a beer with a consenting adult and pilot a glider.

If a 16-year-old person is coming from a divorced family, he or she can, with the consent of the courts, pick which home, Mom’s, Dad’s or other, is given custody for their well-being.

Given that your grandson is now 14 years old, you have two years to help him mature into the rights and responsibilities he will pick up when he turns 16 and four years to continue helping him prepare for the gauntlet that comes with the age of majority at 18. You and your grandson should do well. That is plenty of time for all of you.

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