In most states, for legal purposes, a child is a person under the age of 18. A few states set the age of majority at 17 or 19. Children who are living with their parents have the right to receive basic needs from them. Otherwise, the state must provide those services.
Parents Must Provide Basic Necessities
All states have laws requiring that parents provide basic necessities for their children. As a parent, you must at least provide food, clothing, housing, and health care. If you don't provide these necessities, the government can step in. Child Protective Services, which has different names in different states) can provide help to the family, take the child out of the home, or even ask a judge to terminate your parental rights.
Children Have Rights While in Foster Care
The state must make sure that children in foster care have their basic needs met and that they are protected from abuse and neglect. Children have the right to be placed in a stable environment and to be placed in a permanent home, if possible.
Disabled Children Have a Right to Education
Disabled children have the right to a free, appropriate public education. Schools receiving federal funding must ensure that disabled children receive regular or special education designed to meet their needs as adequately as the school meets the needs of non-disabled students.
Children Have the Right to Legal Counsel
Like adults, children have the right to an attorney under certain circumstances. When accused of a crime, for example, they have the right to legal representation. If the parents can't afford an attorney, the judge will appoint one at no cost to the parents. In 28 states and the District of Columbia, judges must appoint an attorney for the child in cases where the parents are accused of abuse or neglect.
Children Have the Right to Inherit From Their Parents
If you leave a will, you can name the people who will inherit your belongings. If you don't make a will, though, the state decides who gets your property. All states have laws stating that natural and adopted children inherit from their parents. In some states, an adopted child can inherit from both the natural and the adoptive parents.
A Family Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding the legal rights of children is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.