Children do not have all legal rights of an adult until they reach the age of majority. In this article, you will learn how a emancipated child gets all the legal rights of an adult person and all other relevant child laws
What is child custody?
Child Custody is defined as the legal right given to a parent (known as custodian parent) by the competent court to take the important decisions like education, health, place of living, etc., for a child’s life. This situation arises after the divorce or separation of the parents. Child custody is a family law matter mostly decided along with the divorce or separation petition. If the child lives with the parent then it is called physical custody. However, it is not necessary that the child physically lives with custodian parent. The court can also decide it otherwise what is in the best interest of the child. Usually, the non-custodian parent is given visitation rights.
Child Custody Jurisdiction
Child Custody Laws differ from state to state in U.S. Although, federal laws mandates the states to enforce the Child custody laws of other states Each state in USA determines child custody cases based on the rules of Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The main rule for determining is the State where the child lived in the last six months before the divorce.
Types of Child Custody
- The parent who gets child custody is called Custodian Parent. The other parent is called a non-custodian parent. However, Child Custody can be given to one or both parents. You must hire a family law attorney to get the full custody of your child which is of the following types:
Legal Custody :
Legal custody of a child is the custodian parent’s right to take all the important decisions like education, health, place of living, etc., for a child’s life.
Sole Custody :
Child Custody given to only one parent is called Sole Custody. It is given if the divorce took place due to violent mental or physical abuse. It is for the child’s benefit where the other parent may probably cause domestic violence and hurt the child because he/she is using drugs, alcohol or being imprisoned.
Physical Custody :
The parent with whom the child is living has physical custody. It can be a sole physical custody or joint physical custody depending upon the circumstances of the case.
Joint Custody :
Joint custody means where both parents have joint legal right and decision-making power for the child. It is described in a Parenting Plan when the child will live with his mother and when with the father, school, where he/she will spend her vacation, birthday plan and all other important decisions concerning the child. All the aspects are decided and described in the Parenting Plan based on the circumstances of each case. The child custody attorney must focus on the parenting plan of the child custody agreement for the best interest of the child.
What is emergency Child Custody?
An emergency child custody hearing can be initiated by a parent if there is an imminent risk to the child. If approved by court, the judge will determine the custody to the best interest of the child. Both the parents must follow the emergency child custody order. the child goes to the assigned parent either on the same day of the court order or a few days later. However, it is temporary child custody and remains valid until the expiry date or a final order reviewed again at the full trail.
Each state in USA has its own rules, but the emergency issue must pose an imminent risk to the child such as child abuse(physical or mental). In order to qualify for emergency custody order, it must be a true emergency. Evidence is required to prove an emergency custody which can be held without the other party. Evidence can be testimony, documents, photographs, etc related to emergency custody only. All other issues will be decided in normal hearing process.
How is Child Custody Decided by court?
In USA, each state has its own child custody laws. Although, the criteria for decision is different, each state follow the same principle “The Best Interest of the Child”. The following things are considered by the court before deciding Child Custody:
- Parent taking care of the Child currently
- Child Safety
- Child’s bond with the parents
- Heath and Habits of the parents
- Child’s preference after he/she has reached 12 years
- Financial situation of the parent, etc.
What is temporary legal Guardianship?
Temporary legal guardianship means legally turning over the child custody by one or both the parents to another adult guardian in cases where you are out on a business trip for a long time, medical reasons, etc. The temporary legal guardian appointed or the child can take important and urgent decisions including the financial and medical decisions for the child.
What Is Child Support?
Child support is a legal obligation of a non-custodial parent to pay the basic living expenses of a child i.e. food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare to the custodian parent. This situation arises from divorce, separation or if the parents are never married. Child support laws are governed by the federal laws and state laws govern the child support rules and regulations. Child custody and child support are family law matters, usually decided along with divorce or separation cases. The child support must be paid if the court orders it by the non-custodial parent(father or mother) until the child becomes an adult or reaches the age of majority, the child is declared emancipated by the court and past childhood if the child has special needs. Child Support can be legally terminated if both the parents agree or if someone else adopts the child.
How to obtain a child support Decree from the court?
The custodian parent should hire a Child support attorney and file a petition for child support with the Family law court along with the divorce case which is filed already or a new petition can also be submitted. The amount of child support to be paid is calculated under the guidelines given by the state statutes depending on the unique circumstances of each case. In most states parties must enter the income and expenses in the worksheets published. Divorce without child support can be filed if both the parties agree on a final amount, it can be submitted for the approval of the court . But, if both parties do not agree on an amount then it is decided by the judge. The child support lawyer must make sure that the amount of the Child support in accordance to the income of the parent and is sufficient for all the necessary expenses of the child.
Child abandonment means desertion of a child by the parent or guardian. Generally, it refers to physical abandoning of a child, but it may also include neglect and emotional abandonment, where a parent fails to provide financial and emotional support for their child for a long period of time.
Punishment for child abandonment
Child abandonment is illegal and a punishable offence in the United States. In some states it is considered a felony offense, while others consider it as a misdemeanor. The punishments for this offence may be fine/penalty or imprisonment ranging from a $2,000 fine ,one year or more imprisonment and a $125,000 penalty.
Types of Child Abandonment
Child abandonment does not necessarily mean physical abandoning of a child, but many other behaviors of parents leads to the offence which include:
- Leaving an infant on the roadside, on a doorstep or in a trash bin.
- Staying away from home for a long period of time leaving the child home alone creating risk of harm to child.
- Leaving a child in care of another person without provisions of child support
- No communication with the child for a specified period by statute, generally three months
- Failing to make regular visitation with the child for a period of six months.
- Not responding to the child custody or child protective notices.
- Failing to provide care, supervision and support for a child
- Refusing to participate in a parenting program made to reunite the parent and the child.
Abandoning an Infant
In USA, few states have enacted laws allowing the parent to abandon an infant. The parents can abandon a child to the law enforcement officer, hospital staff, medical emergency room, etc, in a legally allowed way without being guilty for the abandonment.
Termination of Parental Rights
Parents have a legal right to raise, protect, and educate their child which include physical custody of the child, prevention of child and the right to manage the income and property of their minor child these rights are terminated by the court if the parent fails to provide safety and welfare to his child. Child laws vary from state to state but the common reasons for termination of parental rights is as follows:
- Child Abandonment
- Child abuse
- Child neglect
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Long-term mental illness of a parent
- Long-term alcohol or drug abuse by a parent
- Failing to provide support
- Failing to maintain contact with the child
If One parent’s rights are terminated it does not affect the parental rights of the other parent. But if both parents rights are terminated, the legal custody of the child lies with the State.
Statistics of Child Abandonment
In the United States of America, each year more than 3 million reports of child abandonment, child abuse, and child neglect are reported making it one of the worst nation for child abandonment and child abuse.
Baby sitting means taking care of a child a whole day or for few hours. In most states of USA babysitting laws do not specify age requirements for babysitting The parents of the baby sitter and the parents of child who needs to be baby sat must decide how young a child can be when they start babysitting depending on the age and maturity of a child. However, there are no specific guidelines describing how old a child must be to leave alone and it differs in various states. The Red Cross suggests a babysitter must be 11-15 years old. The parents may hire a 11 year old baby sitter whom they know and trust.
Runaway child laws
A runaway is a minor (below 18 years old) who leaves home over night with an intent to not return without a parent’s or guardian’s permission.
Is running away a crime?
In USA , running away is not a crime in most states. But, a runaway child and the parents or guardians may face legal consequences. Any Adult encouraging or hiding a runaway can be charged with a crime.It is classified as a status offense( an act that is a violation of law because the child is a minor) in a few states. Consequences for status offenses are as follows:
- counseling and education,
- suspension of driver’s license
- restitution or
placement with someone other than a parent
What does Child Emancipation mean?
Child emancipation means the transition of a child from a minor to an adult and becomes free from parental control. The parents are no longer responsible for the behavior of the child. In most states of USA a child gets emancipated at the age of 18 years. However child emancipation does not necessarily mean the adulthood or age of majority as it may be granted earlier by the court to a minor who is atleast 16 years old in the following cases
- The minor child is living away from the parents with their permission
- Having a legal income
- He/she is capable to manage his/her expenses
- Serving for the armed forces or
- Any other reason in the best interest of the child.
However, emancipation can occur at a later age if the child is physically or mentally challenged and cannot take their own decisions.
How can a child get Emancipated?
A minor can file for a declaration of emancipation in the court. However, few states in USA does not allow it while others require that the minor must be atleast 16 years old.
You can also become emancipated without legal declaration in the following cases:
- Consent of parent or legal guardian
- If you get married before becoming a major
- Joining the armed forces
Benefits of getting Emancipated
An emancipated person have all the rights of an adult and does not need parental permission to sign a legally binding contract, enroll in a school, give medical consent and engage in many other social, legal and financial activities.
Child Support and Emancipation
According the Child Law of USA. For emancipation, parents have legal obligation to take care of food, housing and other financial responsibilities until the child becomes a major and is capable to manage his/her expenses . Similarly, a non-custodial parent must provide Child support until the child becomes a major.