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Age of Majority, Parents’ Responsibilities and Rights

Comment 16th July 2010

There is considerable confusion in current legislation about the age at which a child becomes an adult.

There is also confusion about the rights of parents concerning their minor children and their responsibilities both before and after they become adults. This confusion results in frequent abuse of rights – usually by well meaning but inept officials.

I propose that a single age of 18 years is standardised as the age of majority. Before that age the child is the parents' responsibility and after his/her 18th birthday the child becomes an adult with the full rights and responsibilities that this entails.

As a minor child, the parents are responsible for all aspects of the child's welfare and for all aspects of the child's debts and behaviour. To enable this, all legislation that permits parents to be bypassed by medical, law enforcement, educational or other authorities must be repealed. Current rules that permit, for instance, a child to have a pregnancy terminated in secret are incompatible with maintaining the child-parent relationship esential to the parent exercising their responsibilities. Parents must have full rights over medical and educational issues and be consulted on all aspects. Such issues as whether a child is spanked or allowed to consume small amounts of alcohol at home must remain parental decisions.

Clearly, a child must still be able to be taken out of parental control if they are subject to serious abuse or neglect but this must be subject to open appeal procedure in the courts and not to secretive tribunals dominated by social services.

Similarly, where paremts were quite unable to control a child, they could apply for the state to take over all responsibilities and rights. In these circumstances, the child would be moved to a high disciplne environment.

After the age of 18, parents will have no residual authority over a child. From the same age, the parents will also have no residual responsibility. This must include no implied responsibility to finance the child. Hence, means testing of families for such things as benefits and univesity education will fall away. The child may not be complying with the parents' wishes and there must be some cut off to the obligation to subsidise them.

All the numerous laws that contravene the above clear principles should be repealed or amended.

Why does this matter?

Parent-child relationships are fundamental to our rights but have become steadily more confused and eroded by succesive legislation. Furthermore the trend is continuing.

Nothing could be more central to our liberty than to bring up children in a loving and caring environment, subject to our own beliefs and principles, without state interference.

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