Independent Living

Read below for answers to frequently asked questions

When can I leave home?

There is no specific age when you can leave home. The main issue is whether you are and will be safe if you leave. It can take some planning to leave home so it’s probably a good idea to talk to someone you trust about it.

Legal Authorities

  • Section 1, School Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. S-3
  • Calgary Board of Education: Administrative Regulation 6000 – Independent Students

How do I become emancipated? (How do I become an adult before turning 18?)

In Alberta, the law says that you need to have a legal guardian (someone who is responsible for you and has the right to make decisions about and for you) until you turn 18. Quebec is the only province or territory in Canada that has emancipation (being legally responsible for yourself before you turn 18).

However, many youth find themselves in situations in which they need to be able to make their own decisions and can’t rely on a parent or guardian. Several organizations in Alberta have recognized that youth under 18 sometimes need to make their own legal decisions or leave home.


Medical decisions

When healthcare and medical decisions about you need to be made, in some situations you can get what is called “mature minor” status and then you and your medical service provider (doctor, dentist, etc.) can make decisions about your healthcare together without your parents or guardians.  (Hyperlink #192 “I want to make medical decisions without the consent of my parent(s) or guardian(s). What is ‘mature minor’ status?”)

School decisions

Another example is “Independent Student Status” which means you can be responsible for making your own decisions about your education and sign your own school forms. (Hyperlink #278 “What difference does it make if I am classified as an independent student?”)


Legally, if you are a minor, once you turn 16 you are allowed to enter into a contract (a rental lease) for accommodations – because it has been determined to be a necessary of life. Landlords and rental companies are often reluctant to rent to a minor, so you want to be able to show that you’ll be responsible and a good tenant. After signing a lease, you will also become bound by its terms – so make sure you understand everything before you sign, or ask for someone’s advice before you sign.

If you’re struggling and feel the need to leave home and become legally responsible for yourself, or if you’re under 18 and living on your own, please contact Youth Law at (403) 207-9029 or use the “ask a lawyer” part of our website. You can contact us confidentially to discuss your situation and specific options.

Legal Authorities

Reviewed 07/16

What is a “common law” relationship?

In Alberta, common law partners are called “adult interdependent partners.”

You may be considered an Adult Interdependent Partner if any of the following apply:

  • You have lived with your partner in a relationship of interdependence for at least 3 years
    • A relationship of interdependence means that two people share one another’s lives, are emotionally committed to one another, and function as a single economic and domestic unit
  • You have lived with your partner in a relationship of interdependence of “some permanence” and have a child together
    • The length of “some permanence” for couples living together with a child is unclear and whether you’re determined to be AIPs will depend on your specific circumstances; or
  • You and your partner have entered into an agreement saying that you are adult interdependent partners
    • Persons who are related to each other by blood or adoption may only become adult interdependent partners of each other by entering into an adult interdependent partner agreement.

Please note that you can only be in an adult interdependent relationship with one person at a time.
Legal Authorities

  • Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, SA 2002, c A 4.5, s 1(f) (“relationship of interdependence”), s 3 (Adult interdependent partner), s 5(1) (Restrictions), s 7 (Adult interdependent partner agreement).

Reviewed 09/15

I live on my own, away from my parents/guardians. How does this impact my rights at school? 

In Alberta, you may be considered an ‘independent student.’ You are an independent student if you are:

  • 18 years of age or older, or
  • 16 years of age and living independently

At school, a student’s principal decides whether or not they are able to be an independent student.

  • An independent student is entitled to the same rights and powers that parents have.
  • An independent student also has all the responsibilities of a parent. For example, if an independent student damages school property, that student is the only one who will be held responsible.
  • The rights of an independent student include the ability to register for school and sign permission slips for field trips.
  • An independent student controls access to his or her school records, including report cards.

Legal Authorities

  • Section 1, School Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. S-3
  • Calgary Board of Education: Administrative Regulation 6000 – Independent Students


Can I open a bank account without a parent/guardian if I am under 19?

Most banks require that a youth bank account be opened with a parent or guardian.

An exception is the Royal Bank of Canada. To open an RBC “Leo” youth account, you must be 12 years or older and bring two pieces of ID (i.e. birth certificate, driver’s or learner’s license, SIN Card, Alberta Health Care Card). No parent/guardian signature is required.

Royal Bank of Canada


When can I apply for my own passport?

To apply for a passport on your own, you must be at least 16. If you are under 16, one of your parents or your legal guardian can apply for you.


Can I get a driver’s license without my parents?

Yes, but if you are under 18 a parent, step parent, legal guardian, or social worker must consent. This rule also applies to Learner’s Licenses.

I live on my own. Can child support payments be sent directly to me?

Although it is not common, you can get child support directly from a parent. This usually occurs if you are attending school or unable to work full time. Contact Youth Law at 403-207-9029.

Legal Authorities

  • In Landymore v. Landymore [1995] CarswellAlta 709 (Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench), child support was ordered to be paid directly to a 19 year old who was living independently until the completion of her first University degree

See also:

  • O.C. v. A.C., 2011 ABPC 24 (CanLII)


If I am under 18, can I legally change my name? What if I am no longer in contact with one parent?

If you are under 18 years old and would like to change your name, the law in Alberta states that you need the consent of both of your parents and any other guardians you may have.

However, there are some exceptions to the law.


You only need the consent of one parent or guardian if:

  • Your father is not on the birth certificate.
    • In such a situation you would only need your mother’s consent to change your name (and the consent of any other guardian(s) you may have).
  • If a parent or legal guardian has a court order for sole guardianship over you.
    • In such a situation you would only need the consent of that parent or guardian.

You do not need any parental or guardian consent if:

  • You are married
  • You are an Adult Interdependent Partner (see “What is a common law relationship”); or
  • You are a parent or guardian of a child.

If the above exceptions do not apply, another option you may have is to make an application to the court for an order saying that you do not need the consent of a parent(s) or guardian(s) to legally change your name.

If you have more questions please contact Youth Law (by phone at 403-207-9029 or use the “Ask a Lawyer” part of the website) for more information.

Legal Authorities

  • Vital Statistics Act, SA 2007, c V-4.1, s 22 (Eligibility), s 23 (Name to be changed), s 69 (Dispensing with consent).


Can my parents legally change my name?

If you are 12 years or older:

Your parents and/or any legal guardians need your consent to legally change your name.

If you are younger than 12 years old:

Your parents and/or any legal guardians do not need your consent to legally change your name.

Legal Authorities

  • Vital Statistics Act, SA 2007, c V-4.1, Part 3 Changes of name, s 23(6) (Name to be changed). 

Reviewed 09/15


How can I change my name?

You must be a resident of Alberta to change your name in Alberta.

The first step is to visit a registry office and get a Legal Change of Name Application form. There are some necessary supporting documents you will have to gather as part of the application. The necessary supporting documents may include proof of name and proof of marital status. You will also have to give up your Canadian birth certificate but will receive a new one with your new name.

The next step is to get electronic fingerprints from a fingerprinting agency. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police website,, has more information on this process. Please note, the fingerprinting agency will require a fee.

Once you have completed the necessary steps you will have to submit the application to a registry office. The application fee is $120.

The current average processing time for a Legal Change of Name Application is approximately 6 to 8 weeks (as of August 2015).

For more information visit the Service Alberta website at

Legal Authorities

  • Vital Statistics Act, SA 2007, c V-4.1, s 24 (Requirements for application). 

Reviewed 09/15

I just moved out of my parent/guardian(s) house. I am having trouble paying for everyday expenses. Is there any place that can help me?

There are several organizations in Alberta that offer support for youth living on their own that you could contact.  However, unless you were forced to leave home and you are under 18, there might not be much financial support available.  We recommend that you contact the people below for more information, because every situation is different.

If you’re in Calgary

 The Script program at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary at 403-828-4673

 The 24/7 crisis services with Woods Homes at 403-299-9699

McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association

In Calgary, some grade 12 students might be eligible for the Burns Memorial Fund. You should talk to your guidance counselor for more information.

Outside of Calgary

If you are under 18 and were forced to leave home due to severe abuse or neglect, you should call Child and Family Services (Calgary: 403‑297‑6100;

Depending on your age and the circumstances of leaving home there are different options for available resources. We recommend that you call Youth Law at (403) 207-9029 or use the “ask a lawyer” part of the website and we can help you figure out the best resources for you.

Reviewed 07/16


At what age can I get married without permission from my parents?

In Alberta, if you are over 18, you can choose to get married without parental consent.

If you are 16 or 17 years old, you will need parental consent to get married.

If you are younger than 16 years old, you cannot legally get married, unless you are pregnant or the mother of a child. In such a circumstance you could legally get married if you have parental/guardian consent or a court order.

If somehow you were married and didn’t have the necessary parental/guardian consent or a court order, your marriage may be declared void (as if it never happened). However, if either of the following applies, you could have a case for your marriage to be considered valid:

  • You had intercourse with the other party before or after the marriage ceremony; or
  • You and the other party have lived together since the marriage ceremony.

If you fall under any of these circumstances, we recommend that you call Youth Law at (403) 207-9029 or use the “ask a lawyer” part of the website and we can help you figure out options.

Legal Authorities

  • Marriage Act, RSA 2000, c M-5, s 17 (Marriage of persons under 16), s. 18 (Marriage of persons under 18), s 19 (Consent), s 20 (Order dispensing with consent), s 22 (Voiding marriage of minors).
  • Civil Marriage Act, SC 2005, c 33, s 2.2 (Minimum age).
    • Amended by the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act.
      • As a result, the federal minimum age requirement for marriage is now 16 years old.


How do I get a provincial photo ID card?

If you live in Alberta and don’t have a learner’s permit or driver’s license, you can apply for a provincial photo ID card. You need to do this, in person, at a registry agent office. Find your local office at Note: There will be a fee for the ID card between $8 – 40$)

The minimum age to apply for this ID is 12. If you are between 12 and 18 years old a parent or guardian must sign your application.

No Parent/Guardian

If you are between the ages of 12 and 18 and you don’t have a parent or guardian to sign your application, you can still apply by proving:

  • you are married; or
  • you are an Adult Interdependent Partner; or
  • you are self-supporting.


A registry agent will require proof that you are self-supporting.  Some items that may be accepted are:

  • A rent receipt in your name or a copy of your lease agreement;
  • A utility bill in your name (ex: gas, power, etc.);
  • A paystub in your name; or
  • A letter from your employer, on company letterhead, stating that you work for that company.

You will also be asked to produce identification (birth certificate, permanent resident card, citizenship certificate/card, etc.) and proof of Alberta residency (unless you are a student from another province).

Out of Province Student

If you are going to school, university, technical institute or college, and you are not from Alberta you can still get an ID if:

  • You have lived in Alberta for more than three months, and
  • You are in taking classes as a full-time student.

For more information see the Service Alberta website.

If you have any questions about this, you can call Youth Law at 403-207-9029 or use the “ask a lawyer” part of the website.

Legal Authorities


When can I buy a car on my own?

Buying a car usually involves the signing of a contract. This is an agreement between you and the person selling you the car, (usually a car dealership).

Normally if you are under 18 you cannot sign a contract without a parent or guardian signing for you. There is an exception for necessaries which are for your benefit, like food, housing and clothing. A car may be seen to be for your benefit if it helps you carry out your job or gets you to school.

It is important to realize that, once you sign a contract, you are responsible for carrying out that contract. For example, if you buy a car and then change your mind you cannot get your money back.

Legal Authorities

  • The only contracts which, if for a minor’s benefit, are enforceable against him or her are contracts relating to the person, such as contracts for necessaries, including food, clothing, housing, marriage, and apprenticeship and service (Pyett v. Lampman, [1922] 53 O.L.R. 149).
  • In Coull v. Kolbuc, [1969] 68 W.W.R. 76 (Alta. Dist. Ct.) a minor who contracted to purchase a sports car was not allowed to avoid the contract, which was deemed to be for his benefit.
  • Where a minor’s contract for something other than a necessary has been fully executed and the minor has derived some benefit under it, he or she cannot repudiate the contract. See Fannon v. Dobranski 1970 Carswell Alta 81 (Alta. Dist. Ct.)
  • Any contract that is not for the minor’s benefit is void. Any contract that is for the minor’s benefit, but not for necessaries is voidable. See Beam v. Beatty 1901 Carswell Ont 657 (Ont. C.A.). This principle has been limited to executor contracts containing continuing or unfulfilled obligations at the time of repudiation, and not to executed contracts under which the minor has benefited. See Fannon v. Dobranski.
  • In Alberta, the court has jurisdiction to confirm any contract entered into by a minor. See s. 3, Minor’s Property Act, S.A. 2004, c. M-18.1.

What is a will and when can I make one?

A “will” is a document that leaves instructions about what you want done with your personal possessions and land after you die. A person who makes a will is called a ‘testator’.

In Alberta you generally can only make a will if you are 18 years or older. There are some exceptions to that rule, for example if you are married or have an interdependent partner, or if you have children. Also, those serving in the Canadian Forces can write valid wills.

If you are under 18 and you do not fall under any of the exceptions mentioned above, the court may make an order allowing you to create a valid will if it thinks it is appropriate.

Legal Authorities

  • Wills and Succession Act, SA 2010, c W-12.2, s 13. – Who can make a will.
  • Wills and Succession Act, SA 2010, c W-12.2, s 36. – Court may make an order allowing minor to make or alter a will. 


Reviewed 09/16

What is an executor, and can I be the executor of my parent(s)’s will(s)?

An “Executor” or “Administrator” is someone who is named in a will who is responsible for distributing the “estate” of a person who has passed away. An “estate” is all of the money and property left behind by the person who has died. The executor is also responsible for paying any debts the deceased person may have left unpaid.

You must be 18 years or older to act as an executor of an estate. It is unlikely that you will be named as an executor in your parents’ will if you are under the age of 18. If you are under 18, and you are the only person named as executor in the person’s will, a court will appoint another person as executor until you turn 18.

Legal Authorities

  • Estate Administration Act, SA 2014, c. E-12.5, s. 13(5)


Can I apply for Canadian citizenship if I am under 18?

No, you must be at least 18 years old before you can apply for citizenship on your own. Until you are 18, your citizenship must come from the citizenship of your parent(s) or guardian(s).

There may be in exception if you qualify on “Compassionate Grounds” for a waiver of the Immigration requirements. You may qualify if leaving Canada would cause a serious risk to your health and safety. For example, if your parents or guardians died during the citizenship application process and you are facing deportation alone.

An application for compassionate grounds for someone under 18 must be made by their parent, guardian, or other person who has the child in their custody.

Legal Authorities

  • Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29, s. 5(1)(b). – 18 year old age requirement.
  • Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29, s. 5(2). – grant of citizenship to minor child of citizen.
  • Citizenship Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-29, s. 5(3)(b). – waiver on compassionate grounds to minor.


Reviewed 09/16