The following information will explain how to get permission for an abortion if your parent or guardian will not give you their consent or if you find yourself in a situation where you cannot ask them.
In order to obtain permission for an abortion from a judge, you must visit the Superior Court in the county where you live and file an application (also known as a petition) at the Clerk of the Court’s Office. You will then meet in private with a clerk who is specifically trained in this process.
Once you have completed the application, the clerk can assign a lawyer who will represent you at no charge. The clerk will then take your application to the judge, who may hear your case right away. If that is not possible, a notice of a hearing will be given to you. It will tell you the time and day of your hearing.
During your hearing, the judge will probably ask you some questions to decide if you are mature enough to make the decision to have an abortion yourself or if an abortion would be in your best interest. You may be nervous, but don’t worry, that is normal. Simply answer the judge’s questions honestly. Some questions that might be asked are:
Are you aware of existing alternatives to abortion, including adoption and parenting? How did you make the decision to have an abortion?
Are you aware of how an abortion is done and do you understand the possible medical risks? You may be asked to describe the procedure or the risks to the judge.
Does your partner know that you are pregnant? How does your partner feel about the pregnancy? You are not legally obligated to tell your partner that you are pregnant.
What kind of relationship do you have with your parents? Why are you unwilling or unable to talk to your parents about your pregnancy? What do you believe would happen if you told them? Do you have reason to believe they would react negatively due to something that has happened in the past?
Do you work? If so, where and when do you work, how much money do you make? Do you go to school? If so, are you a good student?
How are you going to pay for the abortion? Do you know what would happen if you had a medical complication? Who would pay for your care?
What are your future plans (school, job, etc.)?
What do you know about birth control? Are you planning to use it in the future?
After the hearing, the judge will decide whether you may proceed with your abortion. Usually, the judge makes a decision right away, and you are immediately given a written Court Order that tells you what the decision is. If not, the clerk will arrange a way to get the decision to you.
If the judge authorizes you to have an abortion, immediately contact an abortion provider to schedule your appointment.
If the judge refuses to authorize the abortion you may either:
- Appeal the judge’s decision. Your lawyer can help you decide if this is a good idea in your case. If you did not have a lawyer when you began the process, you will need one for an appeal.
- Ask your parents for their consent.
It is very important that you know what your rights are in this process.
You have the right to:
- A speedy process. The court is required to issue a ruling within 48 hours.
- A lawyer. You have the right to have a lawyer to represent you if you want one. If you do not have a lawyer, and wish one, the court must provide one at no cost to you. It is best to arrive at court with a lawyer.
- Free court costs. If you request a “waiver of costs and fees” you will not have to pay court costs or lawyer fees.
- Confidentiality. All proceedings are confidential. This means that no one should ever know you have been at the court requesting permission to obtain an abortion.
- Answers to your questions. Someone in the Clerk of the Court Office is available to answer your questions. Any question you have regarding obtaining consent for an abortion is an important question.
Do I need a lawyer?
No. You can go to the Clerk’s Office of Superior Court and appear before the judge without a lawyer. Some counties will provide you with specially trained court-appointed attorneys to represent you at no charge.
How long will this process take?
You should be given a decision within 48 hours of the filing of your application/petition. If, after 48 hours, you have not been given a decision, you will automatically be allowed to proceed with the abortion.
What should I wear to court?
The hearing will most likely occur the same day you go to the Superior Court to fill out the application/petition. It is important to follow the court dress codes. A judge may be influenced by what you wear and you will make a better impression if you are dressed appropriately. Do not wear: a midriff/halter top, shorts, a mini-skirt, a tank top or flip flops.
What if my parents find out I went to court?
The court will not notify your parents. Your court records are confidential.
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