What's Love Got to Do with it: Securing Access to Justice for Teens

Lisa V. Martin

Catholic University of America (CUA) - Columbus School of Law

August 19, 2011

Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 2, p. 457, 2012

During the past 15 years, researchers have documented the pervasiveness, severity, and lasting impact of dating violence on American adolescents. Time and again studies also have shown teens to be firmly resistant to disclosing abuse to adults. Nonetheless, state civil protection order statutes-the gateways to the civil legal remedy most effective at preventing future violence and addressing individual safety needs in abusive adult relationships - remain barriers to access to justice for abused teens. State protection order statutes exclude teens from their protections by restricting rights to standing by age and the relationship between the parties. When states grant teens standing, they often deter teens from pursuing the protections extended to them by restricting teens’ legal capacity and requiring them to enlist adults to seek protections on their behalf, or by notifying parents that teens have initiated cases on their own. Furthermore, despite the widespread recognition of the problem of teen dating violence today, many protection order statutes say nothing at all about whether and under what circumstances minors are accorded standing to seek their protections and the legal capacity to represent their own interests in related proceedings. Where children’s rights are left undefined, they are often presumed not to exist. Thus, many protection order statutes that appear to offer protections without regard to age exclude teens in practice by failing to articulate the extent and scope of teens’ rights.

This article explores the failure of civil protection order statutes to offer effective protections for teens who experience abuse. It first discusses the problem of teen dating violence and the singularity of the civil protection order remedy. It then analyzes the extent to which the civil protection order statutes in the fifty states and the District of Columbia facilitate and limit teens’ access to protection orders through provisions on (1) standing, (2) legal capacity, and (3) parent notification. The article challenges legislatures to solidify legal protections for abused teens by explicitly granting teens standing and legal capacity to seek protection orders independently, without parent notification. In the interim, many teens may be left without protection. To this end, the article examines how established legal principles support court extension of civil protection orders to teens pursuing relief on their own under ambiguous statutes. Finally, the article proposes statutory reforms to ensure abused teens ready access to justice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 69

Keywords: teen dating violence, domestic violence, abuse, teenagers, adolescents, standing, legal capacity, parent notification, civil protection orders

Open PDF in Browser Download This Paper

Date posted: September 9, 2011 ; Last revised: August 3, 2012

Suggested Citation

Martin, Lisa V., What's Love Got to Do with it: Securing Access to Justice for Teens (August 19, 2011). Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 2, p. 457, 2012. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1924387

Contact Information

Lisa V. Martin (Contact Author)
Catholic University of America (CUA) - Columbus School of Law ( email )
3600 John McCormack Rd., NE
Washington, DC 20064
United States

Feedback to SSRN

Paper statistics
Abstract Views: 383
Downloads: 39

© 2015 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.  FAQ   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Copyright   Contact Us
This page was processed by apollo7 in 0.312 seconds