Basic Rights of Parents

Authored By: Carl Vinson Institute
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This document tells you the following:

  • What responsibilities do parents have towards their children?
  • What rights do parents have towards their children?
  • What is an "unruly child"?
  • How do you deal with an "unruly child"?

Along with their responsibilities to their children, parents have some rights provided by the law. Parents have considerable power over the lives of their minor children. They can require obedience from them. Generally, they have the right to represent them in court. However, in cases in which the parent is the victim of a crime and he or she alleges that it was committed by the child, the parent cannot represent the child. In this case, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the child's interest. Parents also have the right to control the personal property of their children.

Legally, both parents of a child are entitled to the services and earnings of the child. If the mother and father are divorced, the parent who has physical custody is legally entitled to the child's services and earnings. Most parents, however, allow children to keep their earnings.

Parents have the right to require that minor children live with them and obey their reasonable and lawful commands. Under Georgia law, parents also have the right to administer reasonable discipline. This discipline can be "in the form of corporal (physical) punishment, restraint, or detention."

The key word in the paragraph above is reasonable. Is it reasonable for a parent to command a child to clean up his or her room or take out the garbage? Would it be reasonable for a parent to order a child to hold up a bank or stay in a closet for a week? Unless the child were physically unable to do the tasks, the courts would likely consider the first two commands quite reasonable. The third demand (that a child do something illegal) would not be reasonable. The fourth would be considered abusive.


A child who will not obey his or her parents or go to school is considered unruly.

What is an Unruly Child?

An unruly child means one who:

a. while subject to mandatory school attendance is habitually and without justification truant from school;

b. is habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of his/her parent, guardian or other s\custodian, and is ungovernable;

c. has committed an offense applicable only to a child;

d. without just cause and without the consent of his/her parent of legal custodian deserts his/her home or place of abode;

e. wanders or loiters about the streets of any city, or in or about any highway or any public place, between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 5:00am

f. disobeys the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to such child, who has been adjudicated unruly

g. patronizes any bar where alcoholic beverages are being sold, unaccompanied by such child's parents, guardian, or custodian or possesses alcoholic beverages;

h. in any of the foregoing is in need of supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation;

i. has committed a delinquent act and is in need of supervision, but not of treatment or rehabilitation.

There are many ways in which parents can deal with unruly children. 


* Excerpted from An Introduction to Law in Georgia, Fourth Edition, published by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1998 (updated 2004). The Vinson Institute is not responsible for errors in the online text. Content is for information only; in no way should the information in the book be considered legal advice to anyone on any matter for which there are legal implications. Any such matter should be specifically addressed with an attorney. The book is available for purchase ator by contacting the Publications Program, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia, 201 M. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30602; telephone 706-542-6377; fax 706-542-6239.

Last Review and Update: Jun 18, 2011