If your child wants to leave the army and they’re not yet 18 then they can, but there are some restrictions. If your child is already 18 then it’s more difficult. Either way, this page will guide you through your options.
First six weeks
Your child has no legal right to leave in the first six weeks. To leave at the six-week mark, formal notice to leave must be handed in by the end of the four-week mark – 28 days after enlistment day.
If your child is very unhappy, six weeks can be a long time to wait. Despite the rules, you can normally get them home within the first six weeks IF that’s what your child wants/needs AND they haven’t yet turned 18 AND you are persistent.
The army will usually be reluctant to let your child go, at least at first. But the Commanding Officer (CO) has the power to make an exception to the rules and let them go. It will help if you talk to the CO yourself. A polite first request might be all you need to do.
If the CO refuses – or says (incorrectly) that they don’t have the power to release your child – then you need to insist. After all, this is your child and you still have parental responsibility for them. These are some options:
- You can call the CO and ask to talk it over on the phone. Don’t let them put you off to next week, or say they’ll consider the request later.
- If they refuse, you can send them an email saying you formally withdraw your consent to the enlistment and as a person with parental responsibility for your child insist that they are released from army service immediately and without delay. Say you will be engaging your MP and the local press, and posting the situation you face on social media. Then follow up with another phone call.
- That should do it – the army doesn’t like to be seen to be holding under-18s in the army against their will – but if the situation doesn’t improve, you could consider visiting your child’s training centre in person and demanding their immediate release.
- If you still seem to get nowhere, you could ask your MP to intervene. You may also want to tell a local journalist.
If you would like to talk through your options, contact us.
If your child leaves the army anyway – without being officially released from army service – then they are AWOL (absent without leave) and can be arrested and put in detention. That said, it’s a long time since the army has prosecuted any soldier aged under 18 who left the army in this way.
First six months
If your child has done four weeks already but hasn’t yet done six months, then he/she can give two weeks’ written notice to leave – this is how he/she can leave at the end of the first six weeks (four weeks + two weeks notice = six weeks). Go to ‘Leaving the army – under 18’ for details.
After six months, but still aged under 18
If your child has done six months in the army but isn’t yet 18 then they still have a right to leave at three months’ notice. The army usually shortens the notice period to two weeks, but they don’t have to. Go to ‘Leaving the army – under 18’ for details.
Once your child turns 18 there is no legal right to leave the army until age 22. This is automatic and starts from the day your child turns 18 – there are no exceptions. But you do have options – click leaving the army to work through them.