Skip to main content

What rights does a 16 year old have in washington state when it comes to defying the parents rules?

Seattle, WA |

My daughter keeps skipping class to go hang out with her boyfriend. They are having sex and tring to get pregnant because they think this is going to keep them together forever. I dont know what to do I have tried almost everything to get her to quit skipping class and have talked to her about the responsibilities of raising a child at such a young age. All I want is for her to finish school and not make this kind of mistake in life that is going to put a hault to her youth. She keeps defying our rules and the boy isnt helping make things better

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Legally, an unemancipated minor is under the absolute control of her parents. That is, in theory, her parent can order her to do anything lawful and take reasonable steps to compel her to comply.

    Lawful activities include things such as household chores, staying away from specific persons, study.

    Reasonable steps include things such as grounding her, taking away privileges (e.g., car, tv, games).

    In practice, as you know, getting an older teen to listen can be quite difficult.

    One thing you can look into is getting a court order to prohibit the boyfriend from having contacts with your daughter. While the court may ask the daughter whether she wants the court order, because the daughter is a minor, the court likely will grant you the order. Violating the order would be a crime for the boyfriend.

    If the boyfriend's family also is concerned, perhaps the two families can work together to control the two children.

    The school may work with you to force the daughter to be in school.

    There are services that offer counseling that may convince your daughter to take a different path.

    Sometimes, some persons take different paths to maturity.


  2. You can ask for court intervention to assist in controlling your daughter's behavior by filing what is called an At Risk Youth petition through juvenile court.

    An at-risk youth is defined by statute as a child under the age of 18 who meets at least one of the following three requirements:

    1. Is absent from home for at least 72 consecutive hours without parental consent; or
    2. Is beyond parental control such that his/her behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person; or
    3. Has a substance abuse problem for which there are no pending criminal charges relating to the substance abuse.

    The purpose of an At-Risk Youth (ARY) petition is to obtain a court order mandating placement of the child in a residence other than the home of his/her parent because: a serious conflict exists between the parent and child that cannot be resolved by delivery of services to the family during continued placement of the child in the parental home, and reasonable efforts have been made to prevent the need for removal of the child from the parental home.

    In order to file you must first obtain a family assessment. You may contact your local Family Reconciliation Services (FRS) office at DSHS and request an appointment for intake and assessment. At the conclusion of this meeting, the intake caseworker will prepare a Family Assessment. Request a copy of the family assessment and attach it to the petition prior to filing. The Court must have a copy of the FRS assessment before proceeding with the hearing.

    You will then proceed to Juvenile court where you can pick up an ARY packet in order to complete the petition and motion. After you complete the petition the clerk will provide you with a court date for a fact finding hearing to determine if court intervention is necessary. You will need to arrange to have a copy served upon your daughter so she is aware to appear at this hearing.

    At the hearing your daughter will be appointed an attorney to advocate on her behalf. A parent is not entitled to an attorney but can always retain one.

    To prepare for the hearing make sure and obtain copies of all relevant written records and make two copies of any document you plan on submitting to the Court. You may bring witnesses to provide testimony at the hearing. Written sworn statements from witnesses who cannot appear personally at the hearing are acceptable. A "sworn" statement must contain the language "I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct" underneath the statement, signed and dated with the city noted. Prepare a short background summary of the situation for the court; be aware that everything you provide to the court must be provided to all parties.

    At the Fact Finding hearing, the court will grant the petition if the petitioner alleges the statutory requirements and those allegations are proven by a preponderance of the evidence. After the facts have been decided, the court may impose conditions of supervision on the child. The court may also order the parent to participate in services. If the conditions are not followed by your daughter she will then be in contempt of court and the Judge can sanction her with community service and the like.

    I hope that this was helpful.


  3. Ms. Ayay has provided a very good summary of rights you may want to exercise.

    LEGAL DISCLAIMER Mr. Pierce is licensed to practice law in Washing with an office in Seattle and services clients in all parts of Washington. He can be reached at 206-587-3757 or at the email address at piercefamilylaw.com Mr. Pierce is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Washington law. This response is only in the form of legal education and is intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Pierce strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received.