Parent’s Legal Responsibilities You Need to Know

8 months ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

As parents of a child, you have some legal responsibilities that you may not realize exist. It is a good idea to learn this information to protect yourself and your children in the future.

Each state has its own set of laws that govern parental rights and responsibilities, but generally, parents are the people that have legal custody of a child.

Who is a Parent?

A child can only have two legal parents at a time. For adopted children, their parents are the two people that are the child’s legal custodians, even though they are not biologically the child’s parents. When a child is adopted, the biological parents lose their rights to the adoptive parents.

A parent can lose rights to a child if a court terminates the parent’s rights due to extreme neglect or violence towards the child. If one or both parent’s rights are terminated as such, a legal guardian or custodian will be appointed to serve as a parent to the child.

What are Parental Rights?

As a parent, your rights are to have physical custody of a child or have visitation of a child and regular contact in the case of a divorce. You, as a custodial parent have the rights to make decisions on the Childs education, religious upbringing and health. You can pass property to a child by giving it as a gift or as a form of inheritance. You also have a right to a child’s earnings and to inherit from your child if you should die.

Divorced or separated parents can share these rights with a judge’s court order in which a judge gives physical custody to one parent and outlines which parent is responsible for any of these items.

What are The Parent’s Legal Responsibilities for a Child?

Parents must meet all of the basic needs of a child. They should do this while serving the best interest of the child. They have a financial obligation to support their children until the age of 18 or until a child graduates from high school in most states. In most states, a parent doesn’t have to provide financially for any child of the age of 18, unless the child has special needs.

Parents must serve their children’s physical and emotional needs while protecting the child from abuse from the non-custodial or other custodial parent and any other family member in the household. Parents must also meet the basic needs for food, housing, medical care, education and clothing.

Parents also are responsible to be engaged in their children’s lives and teach them good moral values and social norms. Teaching children about the rights and wrongs at an early age can help them to embody normative behaviors in a society that has its law and order to depend on the individual’s exercise of good judgment, insights and values. Parent should reinforce good behavior as well as punish bad behavior so the children will adapt and understand there are consequences for bad behaviors of all types. As your children age, they have to form their own ideas and make their own judgments, so you have less control over their actions as you did when they were young.

When parents notice their child acting erratically, they need to seek professional help before their child commits a crime. If the parent can prove that they have provided the best care in all areas to a child and has minimized access to any tools of harm, then they may not be responsible for the child’s criminal acts in the eyes of a judge.

Parents Legal Responsibilities for their Children

An increase in parent’s legal responsibilities has risen in the past years since the 1999 Columbine massacre unfolded. Most state laws impose civil liability for acts that are done by your children with intent that are malicious or willful acts or if they done intentionally and knowingly. These items are set in place to get parents to pay attention to their children.

Parents should know what their children are up to and try to control their actions so that they make good decisions. They should also be prepared to have consequences for what mistakes the children make. Many find themselves liable if they failed to exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection and control. These items are distinguished on an individual basis on what constitutes reasonable care.

Civil Liability for Children’s Acts

Most states impose civil liability as mentioned in the cases above. They do not include behavior issues or accidents by children deemed too young mentally by the state for such deliberation. Some states limit a victim’s property recovery and not personal damage and most cap or limit the amount a victim can recover in a case.

Criminal Liability for Children’s Acts

Criminal liability can be found if a parent encourages or participates in an act. The parent can be deemed directly or charged as an accessory or co-conspirator in this type of case. More often, a parent is asleep or doesn’t know the child would commit a crime.

A parent can be prosecuted for contributing to the delinquency of a minor if they active entice their children to steal or use drugs or alcohol or fail to make sure their children go to school.

Some states allow prosecution for poor parenting. They will often specify which criminal acts violate this statue. You can be criminally liable if a child is convicted of a felony, is a member of a street gain, possesses or has access to an illegal weapon, explosive or firearm or is a known user or distributor of illegal drugs or is truant from school.

Firearm statutes vary by state, but most require parent to keep guns and ammunition secured and will impose criminal charges if they don’t.

These are all of the legal responsibilities you have for your children until they become an adult. Some vary from state to state, so you may want to look at the exact laws and statutes in your particular state.

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