Can a teenager get their own lawyer? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 25 Old 12-27-2010, 08:20 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DSS has asked me about this and I honestly don't know if he can or not.  Just wondering if anyone knows.  Can a teenager hire their own lawyer for issues involving custody?


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#2 of 25 Old 12-27-2010, 08:33 PM
 
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yes. When I was in high school, a close friend got her own lawyer in order to legally run away from home.  She was being seriously emotionally abused by her step mom... and wanted to move away from home.  Her best friend's parents (another close friend) offered to let her stay with them.  My friend got a lawyer and our friend's parents got their own lawyer.  She essentially sued her dad and step mom (her birth mom was dead) for custody/guardianship.  In the whole process, her parents ended up pleading no contest, and guardianship was granted to our friend's parents.

 

They all got lawyers so that 1) my friend had some protection from the courts forcing her to go back home or to go into foster care and 2) so that our friend's parents had some protection for being sued for kidnapping or aiding a run away minor.


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#3 of 25 Old 12-27-2010, 08:33 PM
 
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i dont know why not i had one when i was 8-9 (1986-87). i spoke to him in private said what i wanted and who i wanted to live with and if i wanted to visit my dad. then he is the one who went to court for me and he spoke to the judge on my behalf. my wishes were respected fully. i am so glad about that. full time living with my mom no visiting with my father(there was major reasons behind that i feared for my life with just cause)

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#4 of 25 Old 12-27-2010, 11:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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i dont know why not i had one when i was 8-9 (1986-87). i spoke to him in private said what i wanted and who i wanted to live with and if i wanted to visit my dad. then he is the one who went to court for me and he spoke to the judge on my behalf. my wishes were respected fully. i am so glad about that. full time living with my mom no visiting with my father(there was major reasons behind that i feared for my life with just cause)


That is what dss wants.  He's tired of everyone else deciding when he'll spend his time where and wants someone who can look at what he wants and set up the custody that way. 
 


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#5 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 06:36 AM
 
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i dont know why not i had one when i was 8-9 (1986-87). i spoke to him in private said what i wanted and who i wanted to live with and if i wanted to visit my dad. then he is the one who went to court for me and he spoke to the judge on my behalf. my wishes were respected fully. i am so glad about that. full time living with my mom no visiting with my father(there was major reasons behind that i feared for my life with just cause)



That would have been a Guardian Ad Litem - who would have been appointed by the court, in a case initiated by one parent or the other.

 

In *general*, one needs to be a party to the case to file. A child isn't. The parents are. A parent would have to file for a modification (with a change in circumstance - age of the child is not necessarily considered one), and request a GAL be appointed. Dad may want to consult with a lawyer himself to see what his son's options are.

 

And... how does his son expect to pay for this lawyer?

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#6 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 08:54 AM
 
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How old is your DS? His age will make a great deal of difference in the case. In most states, the judge does not automatically grant what a child wants, but the older a child is, the more seriously their concerns are taken. For example, my DD was 13 when I filed against her bio dad, citing his / his wife's emotional and verbal abuse. We had to go to mediation and counseling for a period of 5 months. At the end of that process, DD was 14 and she straight up told them that she did not want to visit with her bio dad. The court listened and changed the custody agreement.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#7 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 09:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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His is 13 and will be 14 in March. 

 

 

To answer how he expects to pay, well that would be a case of us paying.  DH and I already talked about it and said that if this is really what he wants then we would pay for a lawyer for him, respecting his need for attorney/client priveledge etc.  Then we would pay for a lawyer for dh. 


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#8 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 10:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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i dont know why not i had one when i was 8-9 (1986-87). i spoke to him in private said what i wanted and who i wanted to live with and if i wanted to visit my dad. then he is the one who went to court for me and he spoke to the judge on my behalf. my wishes were respected fully. i am so glad about that. full time living with my mom no visiting with my father(there was major reasons behind that i feared for my life with just cause)



That would have been a Guardian Ad Litem - who would have been appointed by the court, in a case initiated by one parent or the other.

 

In *general*, one needs to be a party to the case to file. A child isn't. The parents are. A parent would have to file for a modification (with a change in circumstance - age of the child is not necessarily considered one), and request a GAL be appointed. Dad may want to consult with a lawyer himself to see what his son's options are.

 

And... how does his son expect to pay for this lawyer?



Ok, so dh and I don't want to go back to court over this.  DSS is the one with the major issue and we understand what his issue is and support him.  But it wouldn't be considered a significant change in circumstances.  So is he stuck?  Is there no recourse he can take?  I know we wouldn't be able to take this back to court simply because there is no significant change in circumstances, but we also don't want dss to be stuck in a situation that he cannot stand.  By the way, the situation has nothing to do with him wanting to spend more time with us, so we aren't supportive because it benefits us (it most certainly doesn't), but it does benefit dss.  We don't know how to help him.  I guess if it's a situation where we have to bring it to the courts, we will have to speak with a lawyer and see what can be done.  I hope this doesn't turn into a huge mess. I wish this could be worked out outside of court.  Basically, it's a bad situation that needs to be worked out so that dss isn't stressed by the situation all the time.  I'd explain further but I don't want to be part of the problem.

 

 

So what is to be done when there isn't a significant change in circumstances, but the situation is unbearable for the child?


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#9 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 10:53 AM
 
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I understand if you can't be more explicit, but it's really hard to give advice without any idea of what the issue is. Here are two where-I-spend-my-time issues that are indeed major in the eyes of a teenager, although they'd be considered minor by a court:

 

1. Forced religious indoctrination i.e. dragging a teen to church even though he doesn't want to go and his other parent doesn't want him to go. 

 

2. Forced visits with nonrelatives i.e. stepgrandparents that are frequent and take a teen away from his own friends, relatives and activities on a regular basis. 

 

If it's that kind of thing, then I agree that going back to court is not going to produce a good result, and I don't know what would work. Your DH might support his son in refusing these activities - they can hardly drag him out the door at age 13, and he could call you DH to come over and advocate for him when this kind of thing was going down. It really depends on the character of the 13-year-old, the mom and the stepdad as to how that would play out. Kids who live with both parents do regularly attempt to assert more control over how they spend their time once they hit adolescence, and victories in that arena can be won with nary a lawyer in sight. 

 

But again, it's really hard to give advice without knowing what kind of change this kid is looking to make in his life. FireFrog posted above about filing, going through mediation, and eventually having her child's wishes honored after a months-long negotiation process - that may be a path that is more likely to help than ending up back in a courtroom in front of an eye-rolling judge who only cares that nobody's getting beaten or skipping school. 

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#10 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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"Forced visits with nonrelatives i.e. stepgrandparents that are frequent and take a teen away from his own friends, relatives and activities on a regular basis. "

 

Its funny how in one thread a stepgrandparent not giving equal gifts to grandchildren and stepgrandchildren might be a reason to cut them out, but in another they become nonrelatives!

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#11 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 11:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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"Forced visits with nonrelatives i.e. stepgrandparents that are frequent and take a teen away from his own friends, relatives and activities on a regular basis. "

 

Its funny how in one thread a stepgrandparent not giving equal gifts to grandchildren and stepgrandchildren might be a reason to cut them out, but in another they become nonrelatives!



I think the point she was making is that this is how the CHILD sees the step grandparents, not how the grandparents treat the child. 

 

Never the less, that isn't our issue here.  Though it does show the severity of the issue we are dealing with.  It would be along the same severity of an issue.  So yeah, like I said, it wouldn't be something the courts would really want to get involved in.  Which makes it really difficult for dss. 


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#12 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 03:35 PM
 
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You might be surprised by what the courts take seriously. Especially if the 13/14 year old has a logical, less emotional, approach to it. Unfortunatley, your DH would have to be involved. It would be possible to do it out of court if both parents agree to whatever the child asks for. However, if you are supporting him and his bio mother is not, then going to court would be the only option. And, as far as I understand, "a change in circumstances" can be as simple as the child reaching the end of their rope with whatever the situation is. But only a lawyer very familiar with the courts in your area can say for certain. Good luck!

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#13 of 25 Old 12-28-2010, 07:55 PM
 
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You know, I just read your other thread about how your DS is being treated at his mother's. For me, that information changes everything. The situation with my DD was in many ways the same as your DS. And it qualified as a "change in circumstances" for sure.

 

If this is not a one time, hormonal teenager sort of thing going on, then it is possibly emotional abuse. In that case, your son would not be getting a lawyer, rather your DH would.

 

What I did was get a very good lawyer and I explained everything to her. She helped me focus on the important parts and get rid of the emotionally charged parts. She took a very complicated situation and turned it into an 8 page brief to the court. In short, my lawyer helped me to free my daughter from an extremely emotionally damaging situation at her father/step-mother's house.

 

I had tried for years to work with him, so this was not a knee-jerk flying off the handle reaction. My lawyer was instrumental in helping me remain as emotionally detached as possible.

 

The focus must be on the best interest of your DS. It is up to your DH to help the court to understand what his son's best interest is.

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#14 of 25 Old 12-30-2010, 12:38 PM
 
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"I think the point she was making is that this is how the CHILD sees the step grandparents, not how the grandparents treat the child."

 

yeahthat.gif

 

... and also, teenager with a stepparent versus young child with a non-bio "daddy" who is her only male parent and the vastly differing familial expectations therein.

 

If this is about the summer camp thing, OP, then I don't know what to tell you. Whether or not a court would take seriously a 13-year-old's request to change visitation so that he can go to summer camp is a question that only a lawyer familiar without your local system can competently answer. In your situation, with all the context from the other thread, it certainly makes sense that you and DH are willing to front the $$ for the lawyer. One of the first questions to ask should probably be whether your DSS or your DH is the appropriate client. 

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#15 of 25 Old 12-30-2010, 05:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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"I think the point she was making is that this is how the CHILD sees the step grandparents, not how the grandparents treat the child."

 

yeahthat.gif

 

... and also, teenager with a stepparent versus young child with a non-bio "daddy" who is her only male parent and the vastly differing familial expectations therein.

 

If this is about the summer camp thing, OP, then I don't know what to tell you. Whether or not a court would take seriously a 13-year-old's request to change visitation so that he can go to summer camp is a question that only a lawyer familiar without your local system can competently answer. In your situation, with all the context from the other thread, it certainly makes sense that you and DH are willing to front the $$ for the lawyer. One of the first questions to ask should probably be whether your DSS or your DH is the appropriate client. 



That is part of it, but only a minor part.  It adds up to much more when he looks at what it is he wants.  Since I've already spilled so much though, I'll try to give a little idea....

 

DH has joint custody with primary physical custody

 

Right now, dh's ex can make decisions about dss's education, and future goals, and she is making it known that she doesn't agree with his choices.  Dss does not want her having control over these things. Though she is not the final authority, as many of these fall on dh because this is where he lives, dss isn't comfortable knowing that sometime, if she chose to, she could cause problems. It's about much more than summer camp, that is just the current topic that has been haunting him.  Her overall attitude towards his choices is what bothers him, and the idea that she could have an effect on some of those choices is what bothers him. 


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#16 of 25 Old 12-30-2010, 08:47 PM
 
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The concerns of your DSS are considered important, at least here in CA. Actually, what you are describing is very close to why I retained a lawyer and sued my ex. The court listened to DD, especially because 13/14 seems to be the age when kids are taken more seriously. Especially if they are articulate and can explain their reasoning without much emotion. I really encourage you to support him in speaking up for himself, especially if it has to do with his own lifepath choices.

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#17 of 25 Old 12-31-2010, 06:07 AM
 
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Right now, dh's ex can make decisions about dss's education, and future goals, and she is making it known that she doesn't agree with his choicesDss does not want her having control over these things. Though she is not the final authority, as many of these fall on dh because this is where he lives, dss isn't comfortable knowing that sometime, if she chose to, she could cause problems. It's about much more than summer camp, that is just the current topic that has been haunting him.  Her overall attitude towards his choices is what bothers him, and the idea that she could have an effect on some of those choices is what bothers him. 


Ok, I don't and can't know the whole situation, but I feel compelled to put in my 2 cents.

If the above quote is really the crux of the situation, especially the bolded parts, and if DSS's goal is to remove shared legal custody from his mom rather than just adjust the visitation schedule, that going to battle in court may be the wrong tactic at this stage if you look at the larger picture. Especially if DSS is in his early teens or thereabouts.

 

The underlying message would be: don't like a parent's input, get that input removed. What would happen a few years down the road if your DSS wants to make a major life-affecting choice that happens to be one his father just cannot support or condone? 

 

DSS shouldn't have the attitude that "she could cause problems" if she doesn't like what he wants to do. Or, rather, he should know that both his parents, his father included, could do so if he wants to do something he shouldn't, something that would harm his future.

 

He should know that his father will support him (or won't, depending on the choice) and that if an agreement just cannot be reached, the courts will decide based on "best interests". Period.

 

As things stand, do you really want to send a teen the message that if either of his parents doesn't support any/all of his choices, he can just get that parent's influence removed? Because the shoe could be on the other foot someday. Easily.

 

Now, if there are specific changes/adjustments to the visitation schedule (such as the summer camp issue), by all means talk to a lawyer about the best way to get those specific adjustments made. But I would think long and hard about any action that would give a young teen (or older teen) the message that if they don't like a parent's opinion and input, they can just remove the parent's influence.

 

Perhaps counseling to help him work through some of the issues he's having with his mother might be more appropriate. Because it is clear that their relationship leaves much to be desired, and he's struggling with it.

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#18 of 25 Old 12-31-2010, 06:17 AM
 
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Oh, forgot to say, in most places, I don't think a "major change of circumstances" is necessary to adjust a visitation schedule (more time during short school breaks, less time in summer or whatever to accommodate things like summer camp) without affecting custody. (But would be necessary to alter custody.)

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#19 of 25 Old 12-31-2010, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Right now, dh's ex can make decisions about dss's education, and future goals, and she is making it known that she doesn't agree with his choicesDss does not want her having control over these things. Though she is not the final authority, as many of these fall on dh because this is where he lives, dss isn't comfortable knowing that sometime, if she chose to, she could cause problems. It's about much more than summer camp, that is just the current topic that has been haunting him.  Her overall attitude towards his choices is what bothers him, and the idea that she could have an effect on some of those choices is what bothers him. 


Ok, I don't and can't know the whole situation, but I feel compelled to put in my 2 cents.

If the above quote is really the crux of the situation, especially the bolded parts, and if DSS's goal is to remove shared legal custody from his mom rather than just adjust the visitation schedule, that going to battle in court may be the wrong tactic at this stage if you look at the larger picture. Especially if DSS is in his early teens or thereabouts.

 

The underlying message would be: don't like a parent's input, get that input removed. What would happen a few years down the road if your DSS wants to make a major life-affecting choice that happens to be one his father just cannot support or condone? 

 

DSS shouldn't have the attitude that "she could cause problems" if she doesn't like what he wants to do. Or, rather, he should know that both his parents, his father included, could do so if he wants to do something he shouldn't, something that would harm his future.

 

He should know that his father will support him (or won't, depending on the choice) and that if an agreement just cannot be reached, the courts will decide based on "best interests". Period.

 

As things stand, do you really want to send a teen the message that if either of his parents doesn't support any/all of his choices, he can just get that parent's influence removed? Because the shoe could be on the other foot someday. Easily.

 

Now, if there are specific changes/adjustments to the visitation schedule (such as the summer camp issue), by all means talk to a lawyer about the best way to get those specific adjustments made. But I would think long and hard about any action that would give a young teen (or older teen) the message that if they don't like a parent's opinion and input, they can just remove the parent's influence.

 

Perhaps counseling to help him work through some of the issues he's having with his mother might be more appropriate. Because it is clear that their relationship leaves much to be desired, and he's struggling with it.



I completely understand that, which is why I was wondering what HIS options were.  I think its a completely different message we are sending if we say, "we are willing to help you fight to adjust the visitiation schedule" which is what we are doing.  And then saying, "we will support you if you want to try to fight to get your mother's custody removed, but we will not fight to get this part done for you".  If he can make his case to a judge about her influence, and the judge agrees with him, then that is between him and the judge, rather than us saying, "yup, she's not supportive of your choices so lets cut her out of them".  I see both sides of this, so I'm not going into this lightly, it is a struggle.  But, if he can articulate WHY she shouldn't have a say so, and he can stand up and explain that himself, to the satisfaction of the court, then I see that different than me saying, "hey yeah, let's just get rid of anyone we don't agree with".  Maybe I'm fooling myself about that because I'm too close to the issue so secretly I want this to happen.  I have watched him get hurt time and time again, and part of me hopes that she loses all say so in his life.  But I am honestly trying to support him without judging what he wants, and without owning his issues, when those issues belong to him alone.


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#20 of 25 Old 12-31-2010, 10:58 AM
 
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Then, perhaps the first place to start is to get him (DSS) an appointment with a family law lawyer so he can explain his issues to the lawyer (in private even) and then his dad could join the meeting to hear what the options are, legally speaking. I'm not a lawyer and do not even play one on TV, but I would bet a whole lot that it would be much more do-able to adjust a visitation schedule (keeping the same time share or increasing the NCP's time) to fit the needs and desires of a teen (compared to a schedule that worked for a younger child), that it would be to alter custody itself.

 

That would give you all a clearer picture of where you stand and if the lawyer's good of how the courts are likely to view the issues. Including how an outside adult would view DSS's explanations of what he wants and why he wants it.

 

To be honest, I can see similar (less extreme) issues coming up in the future between my DD and her father. And if they do, I'd start with an information-gathering meeting between DD and a lawyer. And no matter what the outcome of that meeting, I'd also seek counseling for DD to deal with those issues. I can't change her father. Neither can she. But she can learn coping skills to deal with any issues she may have with him/about him. But I also plan on telling her that her father is her father, and that as such he gets a say until she's 18, just like I do.

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I completely understand that, which is why I was wondering what HIS options were.  I think its a completely different message we are sending if we say, "we are willing to help you fight to adjust the visitiation schedule" which is what we are doing.  And then saying, "we will support you if you want to try to fight to get your mother's custody removed, but we will not fight to get this part done for you".  If he can make his case to a judge about her influence, and the judge agrees with him, then that is between him and the judge, rather than us saying, "yup, she's not supportive of your choices so lets cut her out of them".  I see both sides of this, so I'm not going into this lightly, it is a struggle.  But, if he can articulate WHY she shouldn't have a say so, and he can stand up and explain that himself, to the satisfaction of the court, then I see that different than me saying, "hey yeah, let's just get rid of anyone we don't agree with".  Maybe I'm fooling myself about that because I'm too close to the issue so secretly I want this to happen.  I have watched him get hurt time and time again, and part of me hopes that she loses all say so in his life.  But I am honestly trying to support him without judging what he wants, and without owning his issues, when those issues belong to him alone.

 

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember upthread that your dh has primary physical custody and they have joint legal?  If thats right, my lawyer (in NYC) explained that the difference between joint legal, and full legal aren't many, practically speaking.  She said that in joint legal, the custodial parent is usually the "tiebreaker" when parents disagree b/c thats who the child lives with, and so its hard for the non-custodial parent to "win" in an argument, and unless there is something HUGE happening that is detrimental to the child, then the custodial parent would "win" even in court.

 

If your dh's situation is slightly different, where there are "carve-outs" kind of, and each parent has complete discretion over specific aspects of decision making, then thats different, and maybe your dh should try to alter the arrangement so its pure joint custody. 

 

Does any of that make sense?  I'm going to check out your other thread, but if you and your dh pay for your dss to get a lawyer, and pay his court fee's, it will appear that you support him in going to court,  and he will likely see it that way as well - as a pp said it would look like if you don't like a person's say so then just go to court and get rid of them.
 

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#22 of 25 Old 01-29-2011, 08:42 PM
 
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yes a child can. This happens a lot when a child is not being listened to in custody hearings

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#23 of 25 Old 04-24-2012, 09:04 AM
 
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hi my name is christina, my dad seriously emotionally and phisacally abuses me. my mom is trying to get custody of me but we already had a court date and my dad won custody. i am 13 and i dnt know what to do. i need a good attorney to help me in the state of north dakota. I want to live with my friend amanda and her parents said it was fine if i could live with them. but they are in minnesota. So do u have any suggestions on wht to do??? i rlly need help. i cant keep living my life like this. the cops dont believe me even if i had proof that he hit me. so i need an attorney that is free and will help me. could u please help me. you can email me at

 

christina.m.thomas@sendit.nodak.edu

 

 

 

 

please help me

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#24 of 25 Old 04-24-2012, 02:25 PM
 
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Hi Christina. I have to tell you that minors are not allowed to post on MDC and that the moderators will have to delete your account when they notice it. Sorry about that, it's nothing personal :(

 

You need to get your guidance counselor and/or nurse to report your situation to CPS. Don't be hysterical, but be the squeaky wheel. Go in every time that there's an incident of abuse at home and report it in detail. Ask them to take pictures of any marks you have on you. Make this THEIR problem, make them worry that they'll be criminally liable if they don't advocate for you, and trust me they'll call CPS. 

 

Once you have a worker, asked to be removed immediately. Keep asking. Make sure that you have her contact information and contact her every time there's an incident of abuse. Ask her to meet you at school to document any marks you have. It's the same routine as with the nurse and the guidance counselor. You will be put in foster care, which can be very hard, but if your mom is already fighting for custody it will help her case enormously. Going to live with friends in another state is probably not a realistic option, but getting put back with your mom probably is, as long as she doesn't have a serious record with CPS or reside with a felon or something major like that. 

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#25 of 25 Old 04-24-2012, 06:06 PM
 
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What Super~Single~!Mama says is right - you/Dad paying for kiddo's lawyer is essentially saying that you support his desire to dremove Mom's legal custody. ANd it is unlikely that a court is going to go along with that. I *I* were the other parent? I would take it to court and cclaim parental alienation on your/Dad's part. Not a good plan, IMO.

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