“My 17 year old girlfriend in Michigan is neglected and abused on a regular, nearly daily, basis. I live in West Virginia, would there be any legal hang-ups to her coming here of her own free will?”
Generally speaking, you should not get into trouble with the law if you cooperate should the police or authorities ever become involved. Assuming that your girlfriend is leaving, the best thing for her to do when she gets to West Virginia is for her to keep in touch with her family. She should stay in school, get a job, and be otherwise responsible. She should establish ties to the community. She will want to do this to lay a foundation for her defense should it ever be necessary in the future as in the situation where her parents petition the court for an order for her return to Michigan. If that happens, she will be notified and will have an opportunity to request a court appointed attorney, and to assert why it is not in her best interests to return. She will discuss her family history and present circumstances with her attorney. She will likely object to the requisition, put on evidence of the regular abuse, and consider filing a petition for emancipation at that point. If it is truly in her best interests to be there in West Virginia and she is being responsible and doing the right thing, the situation should shape up in her favor. A discussion of some applicable law follows:
West Virginia law includes the adoption of the Interstate Compact for Juveniles. See West Virginia Law. This law provides for the cooperation among states for the return of juveniles who are not under proper supervision and control, or who have absconded, escaped or run away, are likely to endanger their own health, morals and welfare, and the health, morals and welfare of others.
The goal of the compact is to provide for the welfare and protection of juveniles and of the public with respect to (1) cooperative supervision of delinquent juveniles on probation or parole; (2) the return, from one state to another, of delinquent juveniles who have escaped or absconded; (3) the return, from one state to another, of non-delinquent juveniles who have run away from home; and (4) additional measures for the protection of juveniles and of the public, which any two or more of the party states may find desirable to undertake cooperatively. In carrying out the provisions of the compact, participating states are guided by noncriminal, reformative and protective policies, and liberally construe the compact provisions to accomplish its purposes.
There is a provision specifically for the return of runaways. The parent, guardian, person or agency entitled to legal custody of a juvenile who has not been adjudged delinquent but who has run away without consent may petition the appropriate court in the demanding state for the issuance of a requisition for the juvenile’s return.
The petition for requisition shall state the name and age of the juvenile, the name of the petitioner and the basis of entitlement to the juvenile’s custody, the circumstances of the juvenile’s running away, the juvenile’s location if known at the time application is made, and such other facts as may tend to show that the juvenile who has run away is endangering the juvenile’s own welfare or the welfare of others and is not an emancipated minor. The petition shall be verified by affidavit, shall be executed in duplicate, and shall be accompanied by two certified copies of the document or documents on which the petitioner’s entitlement to the juvenile’s custody is based, such as birth certificates, letters of guardianship, or custody decrees. Such further affidavits and other documents as may be deemed proper may be submitted with such petition.
The judge of the court to which this petition is made may hold a hearing to determine whether for the purposes of this compact the petitioner is entitled to the legal custody of the juvenile, whether or not it appears that the juvenile has in fact run away without consent, whether or not the juvenile is an emancipated minor, and whether or not it is in the best interest of the juvenile to compel his or her return to the state.
If the judge determines, either with or without a hearing, that the juvenile should be returned, the judge shall present to the appropriate court or to the executive authority of the state where the juvenile is alleged to be located a written requisition for the return of such juvenile. Such requisition shall set forth the name and age of the juvenile, the determination of the court that the juvenile has run away without the consent of a parent, guardian, person or agency entitled to the juvenile’s legal custody, and that it is in the best interest and for the protection of such juvenile that he or she is returned.
In the event that a proceeding for the adjudication of the juvenile as a delinquent, neglected or dependent juvenile is pending in the court at the time when such juvenile runs away, the court may issue a requisition for the return of such juvenile upon its own motion, regardless of the consent of the parent, guardian, person or agency entitled to legal custody, reciting therein the nature and circumstances of the pending proceeding.
The requisition shall in every case be executed in duplicate and shall be signed by the judge. One copy of the requisition shall be filed with the compact administrator of the demanding state, there to remain on file subject to the provisions of law governing records of such court.
Upon the receipt of a requisition demanding the return of a juvenile who has run away, the court or the executive authority to whom the requisition is addressed shall issue an order to any peace officer or other appropriate person directing him or her to take into custody and detain such juvenile. Such detention order must substantially recite the facts necessary to the validity of its issuance hereunder.
No juvenile detained upon such order shall be delivered over to the officer whom the court demanding the juvenile shall have appointed to receive him or her, unless the juvenile shall first be taken forthwith before a judge of a court in the state, who shall inform the juvenile of the demand made for his or her return, and who may appoint counsel or guardian ad litem for the juvenile. If the judge of such court shall find that the requisition is in order, the judge shall deliver such juvenile over to the officer whom the court demanding the juvenile shall have appointed to receive him or her. The judge, however, may fix a reasonable time to be allowed for the purpose of testing the legality of the proceeding.
Upon reasonable information that a person is a juvenile who has run away from another state party to the compact without the consent of a parent, guardian, person or agency entitled to the juvenile’s legal custody, such juvenile may be taken into custody without a requisition and brought forthwith before a judge of the appropriate court who may appoint counsel or guardian ad litem for such juvenile and who shall determine after a hearing whether sufficient cause exists to hold the person, subject to the order of the court, for the person’s own protection and welfare, for such a time not exceeding 90 days as will enable the person’s return to another state party to the compact pursuant to a requisition for the person’s return from a court of that state.
If, at the time when a state seeks the return of a juvenile who has run away, there is pending in the state wherein the juvenile is found any criminal charge, or any proceeding to have the juvenile adjudicated a delinquent juvenile for an act committed in such state, or if the juvenile is suspected of having committed within such state a criminal offense or an act of juvenile delinquency, he or she shall not be returned without the consent of such state until discharged from prosecution or other form of proceeding, imprisonment, detention or supervision for such offense or juvenile delinquency.
The duly accredited officers of any state party to the compact, upon the establishment of their authority and the identity of the juvenile being returned, shall be permitted to transport such juvenile through any and all states party to this compact, without interference. Upon the juvenile’s return to the state from which he or she ran away, the juvenile shall be subject to such further proceedings as may be appropriate under the laws of that state.
Also, according to the compact, there is a policy that no juvenile shall be placed or detained in any prison, jail or lockup nor be detained or transported in association with criminal, vicious or dissolute persons. Furthermore, the compact defines a “juvenile” as any person who is a minor under the law of the state of residence of the parent, guardian, person or agency entitled to the legal custody of such minor.
It is very important for your girlfriend to come to you voluntarily and of her own free will. It is also very important that she tells her parents where she is. If her parents know where she is, then they cannot legally report her “missing”. If she comes to you voluntarily and you cooperate with authorities, then you should not get into any legal trouble.
This article was originally published on September 22, 2009. It has been revised and republished on May 12, 2014.