What are the basic rights of parents and children?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Basic rights

Rights of Parents and Children in Georgia


What rights do parents have towards their children?

When a child enters into a family, the parents assume legal rights and duties. Parents have considerable rights over the lives of their minor children. They can:

  • Require obedience from them
  • Represent them in court unless the parent is the victim of a crime committed by the child
  • Control the personal property of their children
  • Keep money their child earns or require them to do chores or work.
  • Require that minor children live with them and obey their reasonable and lawful commands
  • Discipline the child in the form of corporal (physical) punishment, restraint, or detention

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How long do parents have rights towards their children?

These rights and duties continue until:

  • The child reaches the age of maturity or adulthood. This is 18 years old in Georgia.
  • The child gets married.
  • The child becomes an emancipated minor. This means that the court declares that the child can survive independently apart from his or her parents.

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What rights do children have?

The Georgia Code requires each parent to provide for the maintenance, protection, and education of his or her child. The parent must provide until the child reaches the age of majority or age 20, if the child is enrolled full-time in a secondary school.

  • Parents must give children necessities (i.e., food, clothing, housing, and medical care) and support them financially. 
  • Parents must supervise their children. They must give proper parental care for the child's physical, mental and emotional health, and morals.
  • While parents use corporal punishment, children have the right not to be abused. The law protects them from physical and emotional abuse by parents or other people. Parents have the duty to protect their children from abuse by others.
  • Parents cannot neglect their children. A child who does not receive adequate food, clothing, and shelter may be found by the court to be deprived. Neglect can be reported to the county Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). DFCS can help the family get necessary food, clothing, and shelter.

The parents' obligation holds true even if the children do not live in their homes. If a child lives with a relative, the relative could sue for the child's support from a living parent. The legal duty of support extends to both parents of illegitimate children, too.

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What should I know about child abuse?

Georgia law requires those working in many professions to report suspected child abuse. These include:

  • doctors and nurses;

  • school teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors; 

  • social workers; 

  • child care and child-counseling personnel; and 

  • law enforcement officers. 

It is a crime for these people to deliberately fail to report.


For mandatory reporters, child abuse includes:

  • Physical injury or death upon a child caused by a parent or caretaker by other than accidental means, 
    • Physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child. 
  • Neglect or exploitation of child by a parent or caretaker, 
  • Endangering a child, 
  • Sexual abuse of a child, or
  • Sexual exploitation of a child. 


The law does not require other people, such as neighbors, to report suspected child abuse. However, to encourage them to do so, the law protects well-intentioned people who report child abuse from being sued for slander.

Who should you call in your county to report child abuse? 

The county DFCS office should be contacted. Child abuse can also be reported to a juvenile court service worker, the police, or the district attorney.

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How do courts define what is “reasonable” discipline?

The key word is “reasonable”. 

  1. Is it reasonable for a parent to command a child to clean the bedroom?

  2. Is it reasonable for a parent to ask a child to take out the garbage? 

  3. Is it reasonable for a parent to order a child to hold up a bank?

  4. Is it reasonable for a parent to tell a child to stay in a closet for an hour or more? 

Unless the child were physically unable to do the tasks, the courts would likely consider the first two commands quite reasonable. The third demand would not be reasonable because it is illegal. The fourth would be considered abusive.

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How do I know if my child is "unruly"?

An unruly child means the child:

  • Is unmanageable 
  • Regularly skipping school without reason
  • Is repeatedly disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of his/her parent or guardian
  • Commits an offense applicable only to a child
  • Deserts his/her home without consent from the parent 
  • Wanders or loiters in the streets of any city, highway, or any public place, between midnight and 5:00am
  • Disobeys the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to such child, who has been judged as unruly
  • Is a customer of any bar where alcoholic beverages are being sold, unaccompanied by such child's parents, guardian, or custodian
  • Is in need of supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation
  • Has committed a delinquent act and is in need of supervision, but not of treatment or rehabilitation.

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What if a parent cannot financially support the children? 

Families that cannot provide for children under 18 may be able to get financial help through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This is a federal program run in Georgia through the county DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services) offices.

Under Georgia law, the payment of public assistance to or on behalf of a child creates a debt due the state of Georgia. This means DFCS can collect from the debt from the parent who should have been paying child support. 

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More info


This article is adapted with permission from an excerpt of An Introduction to Law in Georgia, Fourth Edition, published by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, 1998 (updated 2004). Reviewed and updated by Georgialegalaid.org, March 2022. 

Last Review and Update: Mar 09, 2022
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