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If a 17 year old runs away from home and goes to stay with another family member, can they request to come under their custody?

Danville, VA |
Filed under: Family law Juvenile law

It is a question that a friend asked me and I did not have an answer and was hoping for some advice. Her parents are overbearing and emotionally abusive and she sees no way out except this because she has tried to involve Social Services and her mother has managed to get out of it every time. She truly does need to get out of the situation. She is also having a child and doesn't want it subjected to the situation. Please help me where I can help her. Foster care and Social Services are not an option at this point because Social Services is ineffective with her family and she doesn't want to raise her child in foster care for a year. Thank you for any advice that you can offer.

Attorney Answers 2


If she has left the home without her parents permission, she is a run away and has violated the law. Whether she is pregnant or not, and whether she is almost eighteen or not. She is a minor and has a duty under the law to abide by her parents' rules. Given that social services has been involved and elected not to take any action leads me to believe that it may be the young lady who is having the issues. I have experience with social services, and if there is even a hint of something being awry, they generally do not simply walk away.

In answer to your main question, may a family member file a petition to gain custody, the answer would be yes, provided they have a legitimate interest in the child. If that is the route they wish to take, they should speak with an attorney. If, on the other hand, the young girl wants to pursue emancipation, she herself should consult an attorney about the process.

Responding to questions on AVVO does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the questioner and any attorney associated with Garrett Law Group, PLC. Responses should be considered and used for informational purposes only. Every case is unique in its facts, and all legal matters should be discussed with a licensed attorney prior to making any decisions or taking any actions.

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The question as presented does not provide enough information to fully address the issue raised. Avvo offers only general information and NOT legal advice. No attorney can give legal advice without knowing all of the facts in a particular case. It is recommended that this young lady and any potential custodian consult with an experienced family lawyer and provide all of the relevant facts to obtain the best result. As my colleague states, Virginia law allows a person with a legitimate interest to petition the court for custody. Given the age of the child, and the backlog facing most courts, she will probably turn 18 before a custody hearing. Please contact an attorney, ASAP, to find a creative solution to this situation. Best of luck~

This response is only intended for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for hiring an attorney in your state. Further, by sharing this information, it is in no way intended to establish an attorney client relationship with the reader.

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