How does my former coworker get rid of this kid?
June 4, 2008 1:26 AM   Subscribe

My friend needs to see her son removed from her living situation. How can this be done most effectively?

I'm asking this for a former coworker who's still recovering from a divorce and total economic devastation. She has two kids, ages 16 and 19, and lives in some form of subsidized housing. She is the sole support for them all.

Her oldest son has a drinking problem, as did his now-absent father. Despite not being of legal age, he's received two DUIs and is currently under probation. The probation began a year ago, and under the terms of it, he is to refrain from any drinking and to obtain a full-time job. He's done neither. Additionally, he is a high school drop out who shows no desire to obtain a GED or resuming education. The mom is worried about all of this - his lack of ambition in every area, his severe attitude problems, his disrespect and his dependency issues. She's recently 'found religion' and no longer enables him. That is to say, he can no longer use the car, his friends are banned from their apartment, and so on. This has only made his attitude worse, so recently she went to the apartment manager to see about taking the next step - evicting him.

Unfortunately, she can't. Because he was 18 when she moved into the apartment, he was put on the lease. Per the apartment manager, he has as much right to be there as she does. Needless to say, he has not ever contributed a cent towards the rent, utilities, food or any other expense.

I thought perhaps she could take him to small claims court to recover his share of the rent (which would presumably force him to at least get a job), or that she could contact his probationary officer, who has obviously done nothing about his most obvious failure to live up the terms, i.e. getting a job.

She wants him out of the apartment; his behavior is affecting the younger boy, and she works two full-time jobs to support the family, so she's not around enough to appropriately monitor the elder boy, even if she wanted to. He went do counseling or anything like that; his attitude is pure intense disrespect and he clearly believes that mom doesn't have it in her to do anything about it. She realizes that is she can get him out of the house, he may have to live on the street or burn through his friends' generosity before hitting bottom and (one hopes) working out his issues. She's prepared for the emotional hardship that that entails for herself.

How can she create this positive change for herself as soon as possible and in the clearest of terms? She has little money, but any sort of (legal) tactic is welcome, and though there may be a few caveats to it, her thinking is that the most shocking and sudden method may be the best. So, hive mind, please use your creativity and sense of tough love to help out a very nice friend who's trying her best.
posted by Dee Xtrovert to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can she change the locks?
posted by k8t at 1:43 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

"...though there may be a few caveats to it, her thinking is that the most shocking and sudden method may be the best. "

The most shocking and sudden method to get him out of the apartment would be for his mom to move out and not take him with her.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:46 AM on June 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Surely if he's in breach of probation the easiest move is to ring the probation officer, whereupon the men in blue uniforms will come, and he will vanish?

As to whether that's the best method, well, who knows?
posted by rodgerd at 2:20 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

She could change the locks, but she'd have to give keys to management as part of her lease, and they'd just let him in, as he's on the lease.

Also for reasons of the lease, she can't get out until next March, and she's not of requisite wealth to move out before then and break her lease. As I mentioned, it's subsidized housing.

Having the probation officer drop by was my idea. She liked it, but there are two problems. First, the probation officer has done nothing at all to datem despite her son having broke the primary condition of the probation. Apparently, a DUI is not considered serious enough for strict enforcement to be called for by (presumably) overworked officers. Of course, the other problem is that while a visit may provoke him to get a job (though from the sound of it, that can be stretched out forever), it doesn't get him out of the apartment. I'd doubt he'd be jailed for breaking probation on this level - even if he should be.

But keep the ideas coming, please!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:49 AM on June 4, 2008

You don't say where you live but self-help eviction is illegal or even criminal in some jurisdictions. So changing the locks or throwing his stuff out on the street is not advisable.

I thought perhaps she could take him to small claims court to recover his share of the rent (which would presumably force him to at least get a job)

No, it wouldn't. Even if you won, you wouldn't be able to force him to get a job to pay off the judgment. (I'm assuming this is in the U.S.)

If there is a local tenants' association, call them and ask for advice.
posted by grouse at 3:02 AM on June 4, 2008

He's violating probation by drinking. She should talk to the probation officer and report him. He'll go to jail.
posted by zia at 3:10 AM on June 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Has she asked the manager to take her or her son off the lease? That would be my first step - asking nicely. Its not breaking the lease, the lease still exists but with only 1 of the 2 parties on it, whoever gets taken off has to move.

A more drastic option would be to move out leaving no forwarding address - most likely the landlord would go after the son for the rent because he'd be easier to get at if he was still living in the apartment.

It seems like the idea of contacting the parole officer has been dismissed without even trying. It doesn't hurt to give it a try. Also, does the parole officer have a boss/supervisor you could contact?
posted by missmagenta at 3:13 AM on June 4, 2008

You can't simply "take someone off a lease" without their consent. The landlord would need to go through eviction proceedings, and I doubt they would want that.

As you point out, the mother could also ask to be taken off the lease herself, since she would consent, although a smart landlord would not do this since the son is probably not that reliable for payment.

Of course, even if I think they wouldn't want to do this, missmagenta is right in that you have nothing to lose by asking nicely.
posted by grouse at 3:38 AM on June 4, 2008

I really agree with The Light Fantastic. If she moves, he will be liable for the entire rent and that alone may be a nice wake up call.
posted by twiki at 4:55 AM on June 4, 2008

> "from a divorce and total economic devastation" ... "Because he was 18 when she moved into
> the apartment, he was put on the lease."

Meaning it was done while she was under duress. IANAL, but I thought that was grounds for contract renegotiation.
posted by jwells at 5:03 AM on June 4, 2008

Subsidized housing means her options are limited --- you can't just move, if your subsidy is attached to the apt. where you already have a lease. She needs to talk to the local public housing authority to find out what her options are. They have definitely dealt with situations like hers before. She may not be able to get him off the lease or have him evicted, but he may be violating the housing authority's rules & landlords tend to respond to the housing authority differently than they do to the tenants.

And she should call the probation officer when he violates again. And then call the probation officer again when he violates again. And document the violations, and the calls, and call the probation supervisor if she isn't satisfied with the response.
posted by headnsouth at 5:08 AM on June 4, 2008

Another thing to consider --- if she can't change her living/working situation to be in a better position to help her younger son, and the 18-year-old isn't changing his living/working situation and is a negative influence on the younger son, maybe the most effective change would be to get the younger son out of the apartment and into a living situation with friends or family that have some stability and oversight and relative calm, until your friend can sort this out.

It would likely be the hardest thing for her to do, but could be the best thing for him.
posted by headnsouth at 5:21 AM on June 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure if it would be appropriate to the situation, but perhaps she could get some legal advice as to the utility of a restraining order?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:26 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Housing subsidies aren't necessarily attached to a public housing authority, there's a number of different kinds of subsidies that vary in duration and depth, and the availability and variety of these varies from market to market. More information is necessary; where is she, what kind of subsidy does she have, etc? If she signed a lease contract with a Section 8 landlord through some sort of mental health/addictions/homeless services program, there could be a lot more leeway as far as who is or is not on the lease. Subsidies are very, very precious. If she indicates to whomever connected her to the subsidy that it could be lost due to a volatile home situation, she will probably have far more access to resources that could help her resolve the situation because agencies never, never want to see these go down the drain. They would likely step in to advocate on her behalf with the landlord. Landlords, on the other hand, generally don't give a shit one way or the other because there's usually some kind of rent guarantee backed by HUD funding.
posted by The Straightener at 5:43 AM on June 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if it would be appropriate to the situation, but perhaps she could get some legal advice as to the utility of a restraining order?

It's not appropriate, protection orders are issued specifically to prevent a real threat of imminent and/or ongoing violence, not to assist parents with a child's attitude problem. Please do not counsel her to seek a protection order, a judge won't grant her one and it will be a colossal waste of time and resources for both her and her probably already overloaded local family court system.
posted by The Straightener at 6:07 AM on June 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

The way probation works is that the offender gets probation instead of jail time with the agreement that the terms will be met. And if what you're saying is accurate he hasn't met the terms. Drinking will be hard to prove unless he still has alcohol in his system when/if he's checked. The job could also be hard to prove if he has friends who will say that he's working somewhere.

But if the probation officer isn't doing his/her job, that's no reason to not try to get the elder son into jail. People lose probation and go to jail for much smaller violations than this. If the probation officer won't do anything about it, try going to the court and speaking to a judge or the police directly. Just make sure that they know that you know they're not normally the people to speak to about this. They should be able to help out.

I'm not a lawyer nor work in the criminal justice system, but I did just finish a class on it in college. So take this advice for what you think it's worth.
posted by theichibun at 7:51 AM on June 4, 2008

Drinking will be hard to prove unless he still has alcohol in his system when/if he's checked.

The next time he comes home drunk, she should chain the door, and call the cops when he gets belligerent on the porch. Not his P.O., the cops. They'll show up, and file it as a minor domestic issue... involving an underage drunk person on probation.

Or, let him take the car, then tip the cops that he's driving a car not registered to him, on a suspended license (it's got to be, right... 2 DUIs?).

In either case, there will be a record of the incident. Then call and talk to the P.O. about it (or make an appointment and go visit). If nothing changes, take it to his supervisor. It is the P.O.'s job to pick and choose between the offenders who seem to be rehabilitating, and the ones that should go to the joint.

People get sent (back) to jail for violating much less minor aspects of probation... but there's got to be more legitimate evidence than one woman's word, even if it is his momma. (Though being convicted of a DUI, while already on probation for a previous one, didn't count as a violation? -- There's more to this story)
posted by toxic at 10:19 AM on June 4, 2008

In my experience, counting on a probation officer or parole officer to enforce the terms of the probation or parole is about as useful as holding your breath, closing your eyes, and wishing really hard.

She should see whoever provides the housing subsidy, ASAP, call the police for every probation violation, and get the younger son out of the house if she can. Eventually someone will help her get a lease there or elsewhere without the kid on it or he will get locked up.
posted by notashroom at 10:46 AM on June 4, 2008

Seconding theichibun's suggestion of going directly to the judge if the probation officer seems uninterested.
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2008

I know this is a difficult, stressful, and frustrating time for her. She's working so hard to keep things together and he's just pissing all over it. However, her son is also going through the trauma of a divorce. He was raised by an alcoholic father. He is part of a sick family dynamic. She should see if there is a family counselor who will take on this case pro bono or for a small fee. The best way that this could turn out is that he agrees to leave, or they find a way to live together peacefully.

However, if she decides to kick him out, she should contact legal aid. They will be 100x more helpful than we will. The majority of people here are talking out of their ass.

If possible, the younger child should be taken out of the situation for the time being; witnessing his brother being kicked out of his home would be traumatic and confusing (am I next?) and add to the trauma he's already experienced.

I wish your friend good luck.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:52 AM on June 4, 2008

People lose probation and go to jail for much smaller violations than this.

You're assuming that there is room in the jail, that there aren't lot of people who are violent who should probably go to jail first, that the PO has the time to do the paperwork...etc.

You're also assuming that if he goes to jail for a month or two that he won't be able to come back home, but I am going to bet that when he gets out, he will still be on the lease, and he will still be able to live there legally. Again, I don't know this for sure, and would suggest contacting legal aid.
posted by sondrialiac at 11:56 AM on June 4, 2008

He's violating probation by drinking. She should talk to the probation officer and report him. He'll go to jail.

1) She needs to talk to local public housing officials. They have the discretion to evict people with a criminal record. If he's continuing to violate probation, they'd have an even stronger motivation.

2) She should skip the PO. Probation officers have seriously out-of-control caseloads, and they can't drop everything in a heartbeat to deal with one of their (many) problem children. When the kid is home and is drunk or drinking, she should call the cops and report the probation violation. She should do it every time, to prove to the kid that she's serious. There could be an ultimatum thrown in there, like "Go to AA, and I'll stop calling."

3) She should also check to see if there's a local alcohol treatment program he's eligible for. The probation officer should help her with that. (And should have tried to set him up for treatment to begin with.) Yes, he might refuse to go, but it's better to at least be armed with information. And if he does refuse, she should return to step 2.

4) She should look into moving. Without him. He's on the lease. If he can hold a job and keep the apartment, more power to him.

And finally: This isn't a situation where she should *think* about doing something. If she's in subsidized housing, and he continues to violate parole or break the law, she really needs to live separately in order to protect herself. In addition to housing authorities being authorized to kick out scofflaws, they can also evict family members who harbor them. She has a legitimate risk of losing the apartment herself if her son gets into major trouble while living with her.

It's a sucky situation for her. And yeah, albatross5000, kids from some families are almost destined to grow up with substance abuse problems. That doesn't make them bad people. But the kid is refusing to get help, and he's violating probation. That doesn't make him a victim, just because he had an alcoholic father, and it doesn't mean Dee Xtrovert shouldn't ask for help on her friend's behalf. Your judgment is really out of place here.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:27 PM on June 4, 2008

Sounds like getting him put in jail isn't going to hinder his behavior it will get him out of her hair but not cure his aberrant behaviour and will probably make it worst. She could try phoning his probation officer to see what help he or the state might be able to offer, but I'd worry that the probation officer will just have him hauled to jail, which probably isn't going to help him at all and will probably turn him into a criminal. Another option is the military, for the discipline and self-worth it can provide, but with 2 conflicts going on that's less appealing than it used to be.

She could start by having the son pay his share of the rent and food, or a proportion of it, and if he doesn't no food for him! It sounds like sitting down and talking with him won't help as he's at that age where he's no respect for his parent(s) and treats them as a hand-out. But, maybe someone else in the neighborhood could talk to him or try and mentor him, either a priest, pastor, coach ... ?

In your profile you don't say where you are, so I presume your in the US and probably in a bigger city, so maybe she should try and get the younger son signed up for Summer camp with the Salvation Army (or some other charity in your area) that way, the younger son isn't around the older bro all day long.
posted by zaphod at 2:03 PM on June 4, 2008

[A few comments removed. Being pissed off, even with good reason, is probably a bad prelude to jumping into an AskMe thread; take it to Metatalk if necessary.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:12 PM on June 4, 2008

I would be working the 16 year old child angle - which is really the biggest issue. The world does not need more lazy, angry young men. A mother really doesn't need two disrespectful sons.

Hmm there's always two options bluffing and something more solid. Apartment Manager will likely be no help so a bluff is probably out. Some very guarded looking into what Childrens Services have to say may or may not be helpful. I'm thinking having their people talk to the parole people...

But don't let up on the Probation Officer/s he probably has bail conditions stating he has to reside there and that'll have to be changed for starters. There could be other things (they may not be permitted to discuss it) but they will know how to fix this. On the other end of the stick I've noticed that Judges take into account the presence of a parent. If it was made clear that this is benefiting nobody (and is in fact detrimental to the child), his conditions may also be able to be made more intense - Increased visits to Probation - means less 'time to be drunk' - and an increased chance of being tested - which of course he would fail. I gather he's either not being tested or not drunk and isn't required to go often. A Judge understands scare tactics, and it couldn't be impossible to explain that's what you think would do the trick.. with their help?
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2008

Lock up all the food? Sooner or later he will have to venture out and get some money somewhere in order to eat.

Kind of cruel but she's not legally obligated to feed him, is she?
posted by marble at 7:45 PM on June 4, 2008

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