My son lives with his mother and stepfather and he is regularly abused by both of them.
One day he ran away and showed up at my doorstep. I couldn’t turn him away, but I don’t want to get in any trouble. Do I have any options?
While I am not licensed to practice law in your state and cannot give you legal advice, I can give some general observations on this issue based on the jurisdiction where I practice.
Where I practice in Pennsylvania, a parent can petition for a protective order on behalf of his child under the Protection from Abuse Act (or “PFA”) due to, among other things, domestic violence by the other parent.
A judge can first enter a temporary PFA order without the respondent present in court. This order, however, only lasts until the court has a final hearing with both parties present, and this final hearing is usually scheduled within 10 days of the temporary order being entered. At the final hearing both parties can present evidence and their own testimony.
With a PFA order, there are several remedies that may be ordered by the court. Pertinent to your situation, the court may grant sole physical custody from the abusive parent to the other parent.
An additional option that is often considered in Pennsylvania is seeking a modification of the existing custody order if the current circumstances are not in the best interests of the child.
Upon the filing of a proper petition with the Court, changes can be made to an existing custody order. When making the changes, a custody determination must be made based on the best interests of the children.
Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Section 5328, sets forth several factors the court must consider in doing a “best interests analysis.” Yet weighted consideration is to be given to the factors that pertain to the safety of the child.
If there is suspected abuse that puts the child’s welfare into question, a party should bring this concern to the court’s attention. Also in Pennsylvania, the older the child in question is, the more likely the court is to listen to and consider the views of that child.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips, so please consult a domestic litigation attorney in your jurisdiction to obtain specific advice as to the laws in your state and how they impact your potential case.