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Teen and Parent Legal Angst and What to do about it


1) My 15 year old has debts. Can his creditors get money from me?
2) How do I seal my juvenile crime record?
3) My 18 year old is dating a 15 year old. Help!
4) What do I have to tell the cops when they stop me at school or while I’m driving?
Public librarians get lots of legal questions from teens and their parents. As is true for many legal questions, some of the answers should come only from attorneys and all should come from trusted legal resources so be prepared to do some reading and maybe some research.

In past posts I’ve blogged about babysitting (including the frequently asked “when can I leave my kids alone?” question) and related legal issues. Today I’ll post about some resources available specifically for teens and their parents. (See recent updates (e.g. 6/15/09), but also click on the Home Alone label in the sidebar.)

As is also true for most legal questions, the specific question and answer at hand is only part of the picture so the research process itself is part of the solution and a learning occasion or teachable moment, whichever side of the reference desk you are on. Parents may think they just want to know what their 15-year old should know before dating that 19-year old, but in the course of finding the legal answer, they can learn an awful lot about parenting, teens, and life in general.

But to return to the teen legal question: there are lots of Oregon-centric sources of information for teens and their parents, so without further ado:

The terrific “Juvenile Rights Handbook,” is published by the Multnomah Bar Association. You can also find it online from the Oregon State Bar (OSB) website using this link.

The Oregon State Bar (OSB) is another source of useful information for parents and teenagers. One is their Information and Referral Service, at 503-684-3763 (or, out of the Portland metro area, 1-800-452-7636). OSB has a legal help service just for teens, here: “Oregon lawyers volunteer as Problem Solvers to offer free legal information and advice to young people. If you are between 11 and 17 years old, you can call to ask for a Problem Solvers lawyer. The number is 503-684-3763 in the Portland area and toll-free elsewhere in Oregon at 800-452-7636.”

Your local public library may also have brochures or web pages with resources specifically for teens and their parents. I like the Teens information page at Multnomah County Library and their links to all sorts of information for teenagers.

Try these also:

The State of Oregon Commission on Children and Families.

Some counties have additional resources through their Juvenile Services departments. For example:

Washington County, visit this website.

In Multnomah County, visit this one.

In Clackamas County, visit this one.

If you want to research your legal question yourself, you can perform some of the legal research online but you might find it easier to research this at your county law library. Most Oregon counties have a county law library and your local public library could direct you. You could also call my law library, the Washington County Law Library (503-846-8880) and ask for directions to your nearest public law library.

There might be laws other than the state statutes and regulations that apply in the particular situation. Local (e.g. city) ordinances enacting curfews for minors, or even school district regulations restricting particular types of conduct between “adults” and “minors”, or even students and non-students, at school-sponsored events are examples of these.

You may also contact local educational or law enforcement organizations as to what curfew or conduct restrictions might apply to school-sponsored activities, particularly for a minor accompanied by an 18-year old.

In the law, simple questions don’t always have simple answers and each person’s situation is unique so don’t be surprised to hear a lot of people say to you, “it depends,” whenever you ask a legal question. But law librarians and lawyers who work with juveniles are glad you asked. Teens have lots of questions, almost as many as their parents do.