Questions and Answers

How can a sixteen-year-old change their custody orders if one of the parents is emotionally/psychologically abusive?

My friend is living with her mom, who is severely emotionally and psychologically abusive. She is depressed, self-harming, and suicidal, and it is growing much worse from living with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend.

Her mom repeatedly insults her and tells her that she doesn’t care if she kills herself. She recently took all of her possessions from her room, but left a razor on the windowsill. Also, they fight a lot and her mom often yells at her that everything is her fault, etc. There are also many other cases of emotional abuse. Her other friends and I are very worried about her well-being. She just turned sixteen and would like to live with her dad instead; is it possible to file for this? How can we prove emotional abuse to the courts if her mom lies?


MD Law (Fam. Law 9-103) allows a 16 year old to file a Petition for his/her own custody. While the 16 year old has to be able to tell the Court why it is in her best interests to live with her Dad or elsewhere, the 16 year old will not have to prove that her mother is emotionally ill or that she is a threat of harm to her. Still, the Court has to be able to award her custody to someone else so Dad will have to file a Petition or an Answer asking that he get custody of the 16 year old.

If the 16 year old fears for her safety she has a few options and these should be discussed with an attorney. Child Protective Services may need to investigate the situation and unless she feels safe she probably shouldn’t stay where she is. In spite of her maturity, she should talk this over with a responsible adult (her Dad, school counselor, therapist, etc.) to make sure that everyone is safe.

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