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Parental Duties and Rights

Parental Duties

* Support. A parent is legally required to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical care for his or her child. A parent's duty to support a child ends when the child is no longer a minor (at age 18 in most states), the child gets married, the child leaves the parent's home and becomes self-sufficient, or the parent's parental rights are legally terminated. A divorced parent's duty of support may be specified in a divorce decree.

* Education. A parent has a legal duty to provide an education for his or her child. In most cases, this means the parent must pay the child's educational expenses until the child graduates from high school or ceases to be a minor.

* Control. In some situations, a parent has a legal duty to control the behavior of his or her child. The laws of some states require a parent to pay for property damage caused by a child. In a personal injury or wrongful death action arising from a child's wrongful conduct, a parent may be financially liable if the parent failed to supervise the child.

Parental Rights

A parent has a legal right to control the manner in which a child is raised. For example, a parent has the authority to decide which school a child will attend and which religion the child will practice. A parent also has a right to set a curfew for a child and to forbid the child from associating with certain people.

Generally, the state may not interfere with a parent's decisions regarding the upbringing of his or her child. However, there are some limitations on a parent's rights. A few of those limitations are as follows:

* While a parent has a right to make medical decisions for his or her child, the state will intervene if the parent's decisions put the child's life or health in danger. For example, if a parent refuses to allow a child to receive medical treatment on religious grounds, and the child is sick and needs medical treatment, a court may override the parent's decision and order medical treatment for the child.

* Federal and state law imposes certain restrictions on a parent's right to prohibit a child from using contraception or getting an abortion.

* A parent has a right to discipline his or her child. However, every state prohibits a parent from physically or mentally abusing a child. Repeated or severe child abuse may lead to a termination of a parent's parental rights.

Copyright 2014 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.