As a family law attorney, I routinely encounter families that are going through some of their most difficult times. A divorce or custody battle is hard on the parents and can be even more trying to the child. Therefore, it is not uncommon for the child to act out, often in a dangerous way. If you have a child that has gotten to the point where he or she is no longer controllable and you suspect he or she is using drugs and alcohol, the Pennsylvania court system offers an option that parents can pursue to involuntarily commit the child to drug and alcohol treatment.
If your child is between the ages of 12 and 18 and is in need of treatment but refuses to cooperate, a parent can file an “Act 53” petition. Act 53 is a law that provides a method for parents to convince teenagers to receive help for drug and alcohol problems. Prior to this Act becoming law, only teenagers who had been declared either delinquent or dependent through the Juvenile Court could be ordered to receive drug and alcohol treatment against their will. The Act therefore filled a gap in the court system by allowing parents to get troubled teens into treatment before they become delinquent.
If a parent wishes to get his or her child into treatment, the parent must file a petition with the Court. After the petition is filed, a the parent will be heard by a Juvenile Court Judge and that Judge will make a determination as to whether the child will be ordered to undergo an assessment; appoint legal counsel for the child; and establish a date for a second hearing where the child shall be present to answer the litigation. Prior to the second hearing, a drug and alcohol professional will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the child. Then, at the second hearing, the assessment, the parent’s case and the “child’s side” of the story are presented to the Court and the Judge will make a decision as to whether or not to send the child to treatment. If the child is ordered by the Court to undergo treatment, the Court will then schedule a review hearing 45 days later to monitor the child’s progress.
If you have a child that may be in need of drug and alcohol treatment but is not willing to accept that help, an experienced attorney at my Pittsburgh law firm can prepare the Act 53 petition and guide you through the process. Act 53 provides a perfect mechanism for preempting a child’s delinquent and dangerous behavior and avoiding more serious problems in the future.