Alexander the Great started conquering countries at 18. Joan of Arc was 17 when she rescued the besieged city of Orleans. Nadia Comenici made Olympic history at 14. Weigh this against Mozart, who composed his first symphony at age 8, and what is so wrong about a Virginia man kicking his 18-year-old kids out of the house?

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Who is Considered a Juvenile?

A child in Virginia law is defined as a minor under Code of Virginia § 16.1-228:

  • “Child,” “juvenile,” or “minor” means a person who is (i) younger than 18 years of age or (ii) for purposes of the Fostering Futures program set forth in Article 2 (§ 63.2-917 et seq.) of Chapter 9 of Title 63.2, younger than 21 years of age and meets the eligibility criteria set forth in § 63.2-919.

We will get back to that “younger than 21 years of age” carve-out later. Your kids are kids, generally, until their 18th birthday, at which point they are still your kids but are your adult kids and you’re suddenly feeling very old.

Parental Responsibilities

In Virginia, the responsibilities of parents are balanced by the rights of parents. Think of it as the legal equivalent to changing a diaper versus hearing your baby’s first words.

Parental responsibilities are laid out in various sections of the Code of Virginia. For example, § 8.01-44 spells out the parents’ liability for property damage inflicted by their children:

  • The owner of any property may institute an action and recover from the parents, or either of them, of any minor living with such parents, or either of them, for damages suffered by reason of the willful or malicious destruction of, or damage to, such property by such minor. No more than $2,500 may be recovered from such parents, or either of them, as a result of any incident or occurrence on which such action is based. Any recovery from the parent or parents of such minor shall not preclude full recovery from such minor except to the amount of the recovery from such parent or parents. The provisions of this statute shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other law imposing upon a parent liability for the acts of his minor child.

You cannot legally abandon, neglect, or abuse your kids, thanks to § 18.2-371.1 without facing felony charges.

Interestingly, no legal definition of a parent exists in statutes, though the Virginia Appellate Court mentions two ways to be a parent in a ruling, Hawkins v. Grese:

  • Turning first to the statutory definition of parentage, the laws of the Commonwealth do not expressly define the term “parent” in the context of custody. Nevertheless, by looking to other areas within the Code of Virginia where parent is used, it is clear that the term “parent” contemplates a relationship to a child based upon either the contribution of genetic material through biological insemination or by means of legal adoption.

Virginia’s parents have a right explicitly written into statutes. § 1-240.1. Rights of parents, says in its entirety:

  • A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.

Parents are given care, custody and control over a minor child (or a child with special needs up to the age of 21) in various sections, such as § 18.2-371.1, which allows a parent to use spiritual healing without fear of being charged with child abuse or neglect:

  • Any parent, guardian, or other person having care, custody, or control of a minor child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall not, for that reason alone, be considered in violation of this section. (emphasis added)

Do You Have Responsibilities to Your Children Once They’re 18?

You have to put up with a lot in raising a Virginia child from infancy to age 18. And then, just like that, on that magical 18th birthday, your baby is an adult. You no longer have legal care, control and custody over your kid!

Really. You are not legally bound to provide for, rule and reprimand, or keep your child. With two exceptions (outlined next), you really can kick your kid to the curb.

Should you? We cannot dictate. Can you? Absolutely. The law does not discriminate against or for education, so an 18-year-old in high school is an independent adult, even while slogging away at AP exams and preparing for Senior Prank.

You cannot, though, launch Little Larry or Luanne into Lynchburg without some warning. Upon reaching age 18, your child can be considered a renter or tenant of your home, even if you do not collect rent.

Under Code of Virginia § 55.1-1253, you can terminate “week-to-week tenancy” for any adult family member not on the lease or deed with seven days’ written notice (30 days’ notice for “month-to-month” tenancy).

If your child (or your spouse) does not leave after the deadline, go to court for an action of  Unlawful Detainer, which leads to a hearing, which leads to a writ of possession, which leads to an eviction by a local sheriff.

The last delay is a 72-hour notice of eviction tacked up on your kid’s door. If Little Larry or Luanne lazes around after that deadline, the sheriff can perform the eviction.

Two conditions preclude this somewhat lengthy legal proceeding: emancipation and a special needs adult.


You can set your 16-year-old free through emancipation, if you prefer not to wait until your child is an adult. Your child has the same option, under Virginia Code § 16.1-331, which reads in part:

  • Any minor who has reached his sixteenth birthday and is residing in this Commonwealth, or any parent or guardian of such minor, may petition the juvenile and domestic relations district court for the county or city in which either the minor or his parents or guardian resides for a determination that the minor named in the petition be emancipated.

The court will find in favor of emancipation under four circumstances:

  1. The minor has entered into a valid marriage, whether or not that marriage has been terminated by dissolution
  2. The minor is on active duty with any of the armed forces of the United States of America
  3. The minor willingly lives separate and apart from his parents or guardian, with the consent or acquiescence of the parents or guardian, and that the minor is or is capable of supporting himself and competently managing his own financial affairs
  4. The minor desires to enter into a valid marriage and the requirements of § 16.1-333.1 are met.

An easy way to understand this legal carveout is to think of Jake Kohn singing at the Grand Ole Opry at 16 and signing a deal with Atlantic Records. Think of Allison Kraus or Michael Jackson. They were young artists who did not need the shelter of home thanks to their raw talent.

Special Needs Children

A child with disabilities as defined under Virginia Code § 22.1-213 can continue in Virginia public secondary schools through the year of their 22nd birthday. The public school will continue to provide transportation, even if the adult leaves your home for another address.

Once special needs children turn 18, they can vote, sign contracts, open bank accounts, and sign advance health care directives. Adult males have to register for Selective Service.

Before you look askance at the idea of tossing your adult child with special needs out of your home, consider that independent living could be exactly what your adult child needs. You may be able to obtain a voucher through Virginia’s Housing Choice Voucher program.

Again, we are neither condoning or condemning your right to send your 18-year-old child out of the family home. You may wish to consider all the ramifications for doing this with a special needs child-now-adult:

  • Can the adult provide informed consent?
  • Can the adult handle financial affairs independently?
  • Does the adult require a guardian, attorney, or educational representative?

Doing What is Right

Every Virginia family is unique. What is right and just for one family may not work for another. Before you leap at the chance to kick your kid to the curb, consult with a family law attorney, and do one other thing:

  • Examine your motives for wanting to evict your own child — If you are doing so as a spur to growth, a scaffold toward independence, or encouragement to explore, those are far better reasons than exhaustion, strong dislike, or frustration

An experienced family law attorney can help you find the best strategy— whether that means keeping your child under your roof or turning your child out — to succeed legally, ethically, and serenely. The Firm For Men can be your wisest ally in dealing with your children. Contact us today or call us at (757) 383-9184. With one consultation you may find yourself on a much clearer path to a much happier future for you and your children!