As parents, we know that we are responsible for feeding, clothing and housing our children; however, few realize that parents may also be liable for their child’s civil and criminal wrongdoing.
Parent Responsibility Acts have been around for centuries and almost every state has some form of parental responsibility statute which makes parents, or legal guardians, obligated to pay their child’s restitution for property damage, personal injury, larcenies and vandalism. These statutes generally are related to their child’s negligent, intentional or willful acts that take place prior to their age of majority, which is 18 in most states, but 19 and 21 in a few.
From Alabama to Wyoming, these Parent Responsibility Acts and laws can have monetary limits as low as $1,000.00 or have not limits at all. Some obligations attach to property damage and some include motor vehicle accident liability. Sometimes, a state may also attach criminal penalties on parents as co-conspirators or accessories if a parent should have been aware of their child’s suspect or criminal behavior or in some way facilitated the criminal activity through the use of a car, key or access to a weapon. In some instances, parents may also be deemed to have contributed to the delinquency of their child or be criminally liable for their children not attending school (truancy/failure to send.)
Each state is unique in how it handles parental obligations for their child or children’s malfeasances. In states like Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, and Colorado, parents are required to participate in community service with their child or children if their child gets in trouble with the law. In addition, in other sister states, including Arizona, Kansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and North Carolina, parents must attend counseling and/or other court-ordered treatment programs if their child or children become court involved. Parent training and responsibility courses are mandate in some cases in the states such as Arkansas, Colorado, Texas, and Wisconsin if youth get in trouble.
While some may think these statutes interfere with a parent’s constitutional freedoms of raising their children, still others believe that the statutes undermine the need to make individuals solely responsible for their actions. Regardless of how you view any of these responsibility acts, they force parents to need to know what their children are up to and who they are involved with.
Our modern culture has made parenting a legal complication. Discipline and individuality are discouraged, while parental obligations and liability seem to increase. The best defense for a parent raising an at risk child is knowledge and communication. Know the state laws that impact you and your child. Review your state’s responsibility act and talk with your child. Establish an understanding about expectations, limits, and concerns as they relate to your child and your family. Be realistic. If needed, be proactive and your family counseling or have your child participate in activities which will help curb any dangerous habits or risky behaviors.
While Parent Responsibility Acts may be around to stay, parents can prepare themselves for the possibilities of problems. Being prepared will help parents face the challenges of raising children in our modern world.