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  • Harboring a runaway

    My girlfriend is 16 years old. She does not come from a bad background, or an abusive home. So let me add some simple facts:

    Her mother divorced her father about seven years ago. Since then, they're put a restraining order on him because of multiple issues he seems to have been causing. She remarried shortly after to a man that, to be blunt, my girlfriend can't stand. In all honesty, he is a deadbeat. He does nothing. He receives disability checks and sits around the house all day and doesn't even bother helping out. He feels as though his place is to be the parent, which he takes to a level that, were I her, I'd likely want to leave too.

    I'm 19, and I apartment hop with my friends. I'm in college and very financially stable, I just choose to apartment hop because all my friends live in the same general area and it's nice to stay in touch. Plus it helps the time go by. In all honesty, I could easily lease my own apartment alone and pay for it (or share one with one of my many friends). So finances are not an issue.

    I'm very aware of the laws. I know that her parents can have the police return her, though that wouldn't stop her from running away again, and I also know that charges CAN be pressed on me by way of her parents for harboring her, though it would really just be her stepfather (funny how someone with no real affiliation with her existence can control so many aspects of her life). My only question is, were I to at SOME point allow it, I told her to wait it out and see if things would improve within the next couple months.. though they show no sign of it.. and that's where I left it; however were that to become the case, and were he to press charges, what consequences would I face here in the state of Ohio?

    Mind you I have family and friends in other states as well. It'd be a simple task to transfer schools and leave the state if I chose. I told her I didn't want her to do it because even if she evades police until she's 18, which IS possible, it could strain her relationship with her mother, who she is close to. So while of course I wouldn't mind it, I'm against it for these reasons. I'm more worried about that relationship than I am my own well being. However I understand that she has a lot going on. She attends counseling every so often even. So there's a lot going on in her life which adds up to why she's so eager to get out.

    I've looked online and through the OH Code and I can't seem to find the actual consequences for harboring. I know you guys here at the NSR don't condone running away, and neither do I. However I'm looking for some sound advice here based on what YOU know before I even consider contacting local authorities to find out more.

    1) What are the typical consequences harboring would face in Ohio? (We are NOT one of the states that makes it ILLEGAL for her to runaway.)
    2) Does any of the information as to her REASONING hold any meaning in what COULD end up a court case were I charged?
    3) A question I don't like to consider- but could her biological father actually play a role in this. I do believe that in Ohio, by age 16 she can decide who she wants to live with as far as guardians go. He's also financially stable. Would he be able to add his two cents and possibly complicate things in a legal sense considering he is her father and if she chose to live with him (which she wouldn't) I'm sure she could?

  • #2
    Thank you for contacting us at the National Runaway Switchboard. We think it’s great that you’ve contacted us with these questions and hopefully we will be able to provide you with some resources or options. We are a nondirective hotline so we wouldn’t be able to give you specific advice but we can try to give you some numbers of people who will.

    You said that you encouraged her to wait it out and see if the situation improves. Can you explain that a little more? It seems like things are tough for her with her stepdad trying to be a parent but not taking an active role in her life. You said that he takes his wanting to be a parent to a role that would make you want to leave too; what does he do that makes her want to leave?

    What kinds of issues does your girlfriend’s biological dad present to warrant the restraining order? You had asked if her dad could play a role in her decision but prefaced it with a hesitancy to ask that question. Would it be safe for your girlfriend to stay with her dad? We aren’t legally trained here so I’m not able to give you a specific answer regarding the role her father could play. It may be more difficult though since there is a restraining order against him. The courts may not allow for him to make a statement due to that.

    Due to not being legally trained, I can’t specifically address what it means to harbor a runaway in Ohio. It sounds like you are more concerned with her stepfather trying to press charges against you and not her mom; is this correct? It also sounds like your girlfriend has a good relationship with her mom. Would she be comfortable talking to her about what’s going on?

    Since we don’t know your specific location in Ohio, we are providing some resources throughout the state that might be able to provide you with more specific answers or assistance. We are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-RUNAWAY. You or your girlfriend can contact us at anytime for any additional resources or information.

    There is the Cleveland Legal Aid Society that provides some assistance with family law. They can be reached at 440-576-8120 or 866-873-9665; they also have a website if you have internet access. It is http://www.lasclev.org.

    Another agency that is located in Akron is Community Legal Aid Services. Their phone number is 800-988-9454; they are available Monday-Thursday 9:00 AM-4:00 PM and Fridays from 9:00 AM-12:00 PM. They also have a website that is http://www.communitylegalaid.org.
    There is an agency in Dayton that offers legal assistance but also has drop in centers and a shelter. Their name is Daybreak; they can be reached at (937)461-1000 and their website is http://www.daybreakdayton.org. Their phone number is available 24 hours a day.

    Again, these are just a few resources located in Ohio; if you would like something in a specific area or that can provide different assistance, please call us anytime. We are available 24 hours a day. We look forward to hearing from you.

    ~NRS
    Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

    National Runaway Safeline
    [email protected] (Crisis Email)
    1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

    Tell us what you think about your experience!
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, I'm in Columbus. She's a little bit south of me. About twenty minutes.

      Her stepdad is very controlling. Her mother isn't happy at all and doesn't get to make any decisions. If she says something but he says otherwise, she has to change her answer. He controls everything and she refuses to leave him due to the fear of not being able to find someone else, etc. But there have been many issues where he's called the cops on her because she's the only one that will stand up to him, since her mother won't. Obviously no charges are ever pressed but he calls them and claims she's being 'unruly'. I understand strict rules, truly I do. But the way he runs not only the household but all the people in it, and the way he treats her; which is a sense of "You're always doing something wrong", constant yelling and complaining when he has to stop what he's doing to pick her up from school, or something of the sort, etc. It's ridiculous. Of course, my father and I have gotten in to spouts when I was growing up. We have holes in our home wall because of some of those where I'd get mad. So it's a little different because of the gender. But were I in her spot, charges would have been pressed because there would have been physical contact. He's that bad. As a guy he's not terrible, but as a parent and the way he thinks he's in control, he's not.

      They put a restraining order on her father within the last year because he and her mom were arguing a lot, and words were exchanged, etc. It was enough to get it filed and keep him out of their lives. No, she wouldn't want to live with him. But considering there was no abuse nor neglect and he is the biological father, I didn't know whether the same rules that would allow her to choose which parent to live with, would also be impacted by her decision to leave home, be married, etc. Things that require parental consent.

      The current situation is regardless of what she does, it's a losing battle. If she stays home, she'll end up being detained I'm sure. It's getting worse every day. If she leaves and goes elsewhere, she could very well end up getting involved in things that could harm her. Personally, I don't like the idea. However if she LITERALLY leaves me with no other option, I'm willing to put my neck on the line. But because there's no abuse, etc; that wouldn't hold up in an emancipation argument. Which is the only reason I even mentioned her real father. It would turn in to more of a her choosing who she wants to live with, situation. Or something similar I should say. I'm very familiar with law, clearly haha, but there's a lot to consider. I know Ohio law. I know that the police don't actually go looking for runaways, but rather put them in a database and if an officer comes ACROSS the runaway, they can return them home. I know that if they assumed she was with me, they'd need a warrant to search me. Which would be rather difficult to get without evidence suggesting she was indeed with me. It's not an issue of I'm afraid of her getting caught. I'm worried about it from a moral standpoint. Her mother won't stand up to this idiot, and when the cops are called to your house for domestic disputes between her stepdad and herself, clearly something is wrong there.

      If there's any more information I can add, please feel free to ask. Again, I'm going to do what is going to be the best option for HER. Regardless of sticking my neck out. I'm just trying to get a little more insight.

      Comment


      • #4
        Harboring a Runaway

        Hi there,
        Thanks again for posting here on our bulletin boards. It really sounds like there's alot going on here for both you and your girlfriend. You have definitely done alot in regards to getting information to make yourself aware of all that can go wrong in a situation like this. Your girlfriend seems very lucky to have your support and all of this help and thought you are putting into this relationship. If nothing else, having someone to be there for you is a very big deal when someone is going through these tough times.
        We are sorry that there isn't much we can help you with in regards to your legal questions but the resources given can hopefully clear up any questions you have about consequences. Again, we are non-directive so we cannot give you any advice. It sounds like you have made up your mind for the most part but that you are hoping to have some back and forth conversation about if this is for sure what you want. Sometimes making a pro and cons list can really help because you can visually see what it is you are debating about.
        We really would like to help you sort through these feelings. We are here to talk with you about all of this if you can call us at 1-800-RUNAWAY. This is a rough situation that you guys are in so the decisions can be hard as you can see. We are more than happy to help you come up with the pros and cons, answer any other questions that you may have or give you more resources if you would like. We are here 24/7 and are anonymous and confidential. We are also free from any payphone. If you feel like you would like to talk with us we'll be here.
        Good luck with everything,
        NRS
        Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

        National Runaway Safeline
        [email protected] (Crisis Email)
        1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

        Tell us what you think about your experience!
        https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

        Comment


        • #5
          Another Question

          It would have benefited me to ask these questions earlier, and I want to thank both of you for your replies. I'll likely give you guys a call to talk about some of this a little more. I still have some time before I'm left optionless.

          Two questions that are still lingering are 1) schooling. With truancy being a case, I know that you need a guardian to allow you to drop out of school and get your GED. An option I had considered (mind you that I've been tirelessly figuring everything out IN CASE I'm left with no other choice) is online schooling. However I wasn't sure if that could keep the truancy from becoming an issue, even if they aren't AWARE of the enrollment at the time. Or if we can even enroll her without a guardian, despite the fact it's online.

          The second question was about emancipation. I know how it works and what emancipation is usually used FOR. For instance, pregnancy, etc (which is NOT going to happen so) however, I don't believe there's anything in THIS situation that would allow for an emancipation. However I'm not 100% sure on that. I would like to know that based on what I've said, if there is any form of emancipation that can be pursued. It would take any legal heat off and a LOT of stress.

          Thanks in advance.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Harboring a runaway

            We will try and answer your questions to the best of our ability, although we are not legal experts and cannot give official legal advice. To our knowledge Ohio has no emancipation statute. If you would like to verify this with the Franklin County Department of Youth Services, they can be reached at 614-466-4676. Another option would be to contact Franklin County Teen Court at 614-462-3130.

            As far as school goes, it sounds like you’ve already done quite a bit of research. To get more detailed information, you may have to contact the school district directly. Or, another option would be to contact the State Coordinator for Homeless Education who happens to be located in Columbus. His name is Mr. Thomas Davis and can be contacted at 614-466-4161. We hope this helps! At this point, we encourage you to contact us directly by phone at 1-800-RUNAWAY as our Bulletin Board isn’t really meant for this much ongoing communication.

            Good luck, NRS
            Please remember you can reach us directly by calling our 24 hour hotline, 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929) or through our Live Chat.

            National Runaway Safeline
            [email protected] (Crisis Email)
            1-800-RUNAWAY (24 Hour Hotline)

            Tell us what you think about your experience!
            https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YourOpinionMattersToUs

            Comment

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