Mentally disabled young adult has run off with dude from the internet
May 17, 2013 6:30 AM   Subscribe

A (legally) mentally disabled 21 year old girl in Vermont ran away with a guy from New Hampshire who she met on the internet. Her parents unfortunately did not establish guardianship, and the police say there is essentially nothing they can do. Can anyone recommend a lawyer in Vermont/New Hampshire who can help the parents establish temporary guardianship, and also, what else should the parents be doing?

The young woman in question is mentally disabled, and due to her immediate trust in basically everyone she meets, is very vulnerable. The meeting with the guy from New Hampshire was facilitated by a "friend" of hers, who apparently does not care about her disability (has done some other mean-spirited/putting her in danger things in the past). The guy who she ran off with she has never met before, and is not known by friends or family, although his name and location is known to the police.

Any recommendations for a lawyer in the state of Vermont or New Hampshire who has experience in special needs/guardianship? Also, what are some other steps that her family could take to retrieve her safely?

Finally, in the brief contact that she had with her parents after running away, she expressed that the reasons for her actions were that she she was bored at home. Her parents are good caretakers, but obviously she needs a more independent, adult, and yet supervised living situation. Any resources along those lines you could point to in the Vermont area?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The guy who did my will is in the Burlington area and does a lot of specific work with guardian ad litem stuff as well as general work with guardianship stuff (most often for seniors, but also for disabled individuals, I'm pretty sure). He'd be able to give your friends advice or point you in the right direction. Here is his law office and I've worked with him and his other attorney and they're both excellent. This is not to say that the parents will be successful in this situation, but a lawyer will be able to tell them what their legal rights and responsibilities are.
posted by jessamyn at 6:34 AM on May 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Can anyone recommend a lawyer in Vermont/New Hampshire who can help the parents establish temporary guardianship

I think a better way to approach this is to find a lawyer who can advise your friend's parents of what their rights are here. I would not go about finding an attorney (in any situation) under the assumption that your preferred course of action is achievable.

Good luck to you and your friend and her parents.
posted by dfriedman at 6:39 AM on May 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

If jessamyn's referral doesn't pan out, check Martindale and look for local attorneys that do family law. Most of them will have at least some experience with guardianship.

Note that this may be difficult to get done. Modern courts disfavor guardianship for adults, and the mental disability is going to need to be pretty significant for anything to be done about it.

The police might be more interested if the facts suggest a possible kidnapping or sexual assault charges. Depending on the facts--and in consultation with an attorney--that might be an angle worth pursuing.
posted by valkyryn at 6:39 AM on May 17, 2013

Is it possible to get law enforcement involved by invoking the Mann Act? It's a stretch, but at least it's something that justifies law enforcement intervention.

Here is a link to the Vermont Division of Disability and Aging Services. They can help get the young lady into a program where she can have a job as well as offer resources for Group Living.

Hang in there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:41 AM on May 17, 2013

The parents should probably go to where the daughter is and be in proximity so they can let her know they are there for her if she changes her mind. Get to know people in the community who know the guy she is with now and just be reasonable concerned parents trying to reestablish contact with their daughter rather than immediately waging a legal war.

The disability is a concern but they are really in the same position as all parents who have a child move out. Trying to impose their will or notion of what is best can become a wedge driven into their relationship. They should accept their daughter's decision, mistake or not, and just be there for her to either pick up the pieces or be surprised and thankful if things turn out better than expected. Staying a part of her life is the most important thing they can do.
posted by srboisvert at 7:23 AM on May 17, 2013

The ARC may be able to help.

And srboisvert: Your advice that the parents should not try to "impose their will or notion of what is best" assumes a lot more infomation than is provided in the question. For example, the woman could be developmentally similar to an 8 or 12-year old girl.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:44 AM on May 17, 2013

Mod note: Folks, please stick to the question asked and don't debate how parents should or should not treat their daughter.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2013

My family received excellent consultation from this attorney: Andrea Daly
posted by boofidies at 11:05 AM on May 17, 2013

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