Dealing With An Out-Of-Control Teen? It May Be Time To Involve The Court On Your Own

A lot of parents go through rough times during their children's teenage years, but what do you do when your child seem to be really out of control? At times, it may be necessary to get a lawyer and the courts involved on your own, before your teen does something that makes legal trouble inevitable. Here is what you need to know.

Why is it sometimes necessary to involve the courts in a family matter?

If you have a teenager that's being rebellious and acting out of control, his or her behavior could range from merely reckless (violating curfew and dating someone too old for his or her age) to illegal (being truant from school, stealing, using or dealing drugs). Your teen's behavior could put your entire family at risk—in some jurisdictions, if a teen misses enough school, parents can be fined, ordered to parenting classes, given community service, or imprisoned. In some areas, parents can also be held responsible for cyber crimes committed by their children, even if they had no idea what their teen was doing.

If your teen is doing something physically dangerous, like using or dealing drugs, and there are other children in your household, you run the risk that there could be an investigation into your entire household's situation. Your other children could be taken away until the court determines whether or not you had any involvement in your teen's activity or even simply turned a blind eye to what was happening in order to keep the peace. The court could end up separating you from the rest of your children until they determine that your teen isn't a threat to their emotional or physical safety. 

You also run the risk of being sued by other people for any damage your teen does. Many states will hold parents liable for any property damage done by their children—this includes both intentional acts, like vandalism, and acts of negligence, like causing a car accident.

What options do you have if you choose to involve the court?

Most states have provisions that can help you deal with a troubled teen. This gives your family some security because it alerts the court that you know that your teen is out of control and that you are seeking help—that can go a long way toward insulating you against allegations that you are condoning or encouraging your teen's behavior. It can also give your teen a chance to change his or her behavior before he or she gets involved in a serious crime.

Should you consider involving an attorney to help you?

You can act without an attorney and contact your state's Department of Children and Family Services directly, or you can contact a family law attorney and ask him or her to help you file a report and what is known as a "Youth in Crisis" petition. (In some states, these may be known as "Persons in Need of Supervision" petitions or "Children in Need of Supervision" petitions.)

A family law attorney may be able to help you navigate your particular state's process from that point forward much more easily than doing it on your own. It may be necessary for the court to appoint a representative called a guardian ad litem (GAL), who may or may not be an attorney, to represent your teen's best interests. While you can't simply order an unruly or unsafe teenager out of your home—that isn't legal—the state can step in once you've filed a petition and remove the teen to a group home or other facility. While it may not be something you really want to do, it may be necessary to protect your younger children and prevent their removal from your home.

Willingly involving the court into the situation with your teenager isn't necessarily what any parent wants—but it may be necessary in order to protect the rest of your family and to give your teen the best chance of avoiding more serious trouble down the line. For more information on how the process works, talk to a family law attorney from a firm like Campbell, Dille, Barnett & Smith, P.L.L.C. today.