Runaway to Iowa

Inquiry:

“Hi, my girlfriend is 17. She feels like her parents mistreat her (and I agree) and are not allowing her to leave. My parents and I want her to come live with us until our apartment lease starts in August. I live in Iowa. Can differences in Michigan and Iowa law affect our plan? Could I get in trouble due to Iowa law despite the fact that she is leaving her parents in Michigan?”

Response:

In Iowa, it is an aggravated misdemeanor to harbor a runaway with the intent of allowing the runaway child to remain away from home against the wishes of the child’s parent, guardian, or custodian. Those who harbor a runaway could face civil liability for harboring the runaway child. A parent, guardian, or custodian of a runaway child has a right of action against a person who harbored the runaway child for expenses sustained in the search for the child, for damages sustained due to physical or emotional distress due to the absence of the child, and for punitive damages. See 710.8, 710.9 Iowa Law. However, in Michigan, a 17-year-old who leaves home will not be forced to return. See LawRefs article on Michigan 17-year-old runaways.

A person such as yourself whose girlfriend moves to Iowa of her own free will and without your assistance should not get into any trouble if you also cooperate with the authorities or the girlfriend’s parents should they become involved. If the authorities or parents did become involved, a 17-year-old in your girlfriend’s position would have a chance to request a hearing addressing the issue along with a court appointed attorney. See the Iowa Interstate Compact for Juveniles. A confidential discussion could include abuse or neglect by the parents, a petition for guardianship, and/or a petition for emancipation.

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