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Understanding the Legal Rights of Underage Children

Although children do not have the full-fledged legal rights of an adult over the age of 18, they do still have some rights that courts will protect. Below are a few examples of those basic rights:

  • Basic living necessities: Children have the right to some basic everyday necessities, to be provided by their parents. These include food, housing, clothing and healthcare. If a parent does not provide these services, the government and Child Protective Services could potentially step in to either help the family or take custody of the child.
  • Protection: Children have a right to protection from abuse or neglect. Those who are abused by their parents or foster parents could be removed from that home. This can be done very quickly if a child is in danger.
  • Right to education: Children have the right to free public education. This includes disabled children, who have the right to special education designed to fulfill their needs just as adequately as the school would meet the needs of a child without disabilities.
  • Right to legal counsel: Children have the right to an attorney under specific circumstances, just as adults do. If accused of a crime, the child has a right to representation, with judges appointing an attorney at no cost to parents who cannot afford to hire one.
  • Inheritance: Children have the right to inherit property and assets from their parents in accordance with intestate succession laws. However, parents may expressly disinherit children from their wills.
  • Child support: All children have a right to child support when their parents get divorced or are living apart.  In New York State, there is an obligation for payment of child support until 21 unless you are sooner emancipated (ie. You marry, enter the military, etc.)

To learn more about the rights the courts guarantee to children during child custody and child support proceedings, meet with a knowledgeable family law attorney at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia, LLP.