Out of Control Teenager Legal Options
It’s no secret that parenting teenagers often requires making tough decisions each day. But what would you do if your child’s rebellion becomes too much to handle? What can be done when you feel powerless in your son’s situation? Perhaps you are already at this point. The answers to these questions aren’t always simple but parents do have out of control teenager legal options. Read below to learn more about them.
Runaway Youth Laws – A Helping Hand in Parental Discipline
Did you know that 1.6 to 2.8 million youth in the United States run away from their homes each year? They can be as young as 10 to 14 years old, and the younger they are, the more vulnerable they are to the dangers of street life.
Parents can ask the court to help find their child if he has run away. ‘Runaway Youth Laws’ and ‘Youth in Crisis’ are some common terms states refer to for these out of control teenager legal options.
These laws vary with each state but are all designed to assist with finding the youth, keeping him safe, and determining if he can return home. If going home is not in the child’s best interests, they may place him in a children institution, take him to Juvenile Court, or hold him in custody for 12 hours until they decide what to do next.
What Can Juvenile Court Do?
Since teenagers are still minors, they can’t be charged for crimes (unless the case is very serious). Running away from home, disobeying authority, and other misbehaviors are instead seen by the court as status offenses or delinquent acts.
If the teen is repeatedly dealing drugs, running away, or stealing money, parents should seek help from his pediatrician or mental health professional for advice. But if the teen’s misconduct is so extreme that the parents cannot bear to deal with it anymore, they can ask the court to remove their son from the home. They can file a Persons in Need of Supervision petition (PINS, or CHINS in some states) in a Juvenile or Family Court to begin the legal process and place him in foster care or a treatment facility.
An Honest Look at Emancipation
It’s important to know that even though they are minors, teenagers do have certain legal rights. If a teen decides to live on his own legally, he can ask Juvenile Court for a declaration of emancipation. Emancipation releases the teen from his parents’ legal guardianship and grants to him many adult rights which include buying and selling properties, being financially independent, and signing contracts.
Most states don’t allow teens under 18 to do this, but in some states, teens as young as 14 can be granted emancipation. Graduating high school, getting married, having children, or being enlisted in the U.S. military are qualifying factors to grant the teen emancipation.
A teen can also be given emancipation with the parents’ permission, and parents can choose to file it as well. This legal status is an important tool for teens in certain cases but is one that should be carefully thought over. Once a teenager is emancipated, it can’t be undone. It is strongly advised for families to consider the potential impact before following through with this option.
Crossing the Line – Knowing When to Call the Police
It’s a scientific fact: teens don’t make rational decisions. Their brains and bodies are constantly developing, so they’re prone to reacting emotionally at what’s around them. But if these reactions become out of control and spawn violence and abuse, they could threaten your family’s safety. Sometimes a parent’s authority isn’t enough and it’s time to call the police. But many parents are reluctant to do this for fear of scarring their teen’s record or becoming an embarrassment to their neighbors.
Remember that your family’s health and safety are your number 1 priority. The police are there to help you protect them. If calling the police has crossed your mind, these key tips can help you know when it’s time to do so.
- Feeling threatened by your teen. Are you afraid of your teen? Does your son physically threaten you or anyone else in your family? Then it’s time to call.
- Intentional damage to property. It’s one thing when your teen is slamming doors and throwing a book across the room when he gets mad. But if he’s punching holes in the wall, breaking his sister’s electronics, and damaging the neighbor’s fence, that’s a different story.
- Acts of cruelty to pets. If your child hits, kicks, throws, or does other inhumane actions against animals or pets, take it seriously. This is a precursor to even more serious crimes if it’s left unchecked.
- Risking your family’s health. Don’t forget about your other kids! Siblings of destructive teens can develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they don’t know when they’re going to get physically or mentally abused next. If you feel that your teen is toxic to your other children, it’s definitely time to call the police.
- Your teen makes his own choices. While it’s true that your teen’s rational abilities are developing, remember that he is an individual who makes his own choices. So if you plan to call the police, warn your teen that you will during a good day and follow through with it when the time comes. Use a black-and-white discipline approach.
Keep in mind that the situation is different for every family – the same courses of action may be appropriate for some while it is wrong for others. We encourage you to pray through it carefully and seek wisdom to determine what’s best for your family.
Should You Take Them Away to a School?
If you don’t want to call the police or file a PINS or emancipation order, rest assured that there are alternative out of control teenager legal options. Parents can send their teen to a boarding school, or the court can order them to attend one in hopes that he will mature into a productive individual in society.
Several kinds of boarding school options are available, including secular and Christian boarding schools. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel guilty or defeated about sending their son to one of these schools, but compared to the other options, it’s certainly worth considering as one of the first.
Understanding Your Out of Control Teenager Legal Options
We hope that this information empowers you in your situation and helps you realize that you are not by yourself when it comes to dealing with extreme teen behaviors. While these choices are sobering, they are available to your family and are meant to preserve order in the household.
We strongly encourage you to pray about each choice and ask for wisdom before doing them. And if you are lead to a Christian boarding school, Gateway Academy for Boys is here for you when you’re ready. Feel free to call us at 850 – 547 – 9011 if you have any questions about the process. We look forward to speaking with you and help your family find peace again.
Polly Klaas Foundation
Connecticut General Assembly Website