Before you sue a parent for past physical and mental abuse, you need to spend some time thinking about what you want to accomplish. Are you in need of an apology for past mistreatment? Do you want the abuser to feel remorse? The courts can't make either of these things happen. Even a monetary settlement may not be possible in all circumstances. Pursuing legal action can be a long and expensive process, so it's important to be realistic about the court's limitations.
Obtain a guardian if needed. If you are under the age of 18, you will need to sue through the use of a legal guardian, also known as a guardian ad litem. Children are not able to obtain a lawyer without an adult to "speak" for them. Policies for obtaining a guardian ad litem vary by location. As mandatory child abuse reporters, however, school guidance counselors are usually very knowledgeable in how to help a child seek this type of assistance. You can also contact the local child welfare office to learn more about getting a guardian ad litem.
Figure out if you are within the statute of limitations for your case. In many cases, a child who was abused will wait until after he is 18 to sue an abusive parent. Once you are 18, you generally have three years in which to bring a lawsuit.
Find an attorney to represent you. Look up attorneys in the phone book or on the Internet, or contact your local bar association, and choose someone who specializes in family law. After telling the attorney your story, she will set up a meeting if she decides to take your case.
Bring evidence to your lawyer. You will need as much evidence as possible to help your lawyer prove your case. Evidence can include medical records, photographs or videotapes. Testimony from former teachers, counselors or clergy may be helpful if they can speak about what types of mistreatment they witnessed.
Work with your lawyer to prepare your case. While your lawyer will handle all of the necessary paperwork, you'll still need to meet with him several times. He will want to ask you questions about the case and prepare you to testify when needed.
Dana Hinders is an Iowa-based writer. She earned her B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa in 2003.