Family Law

Legal Responsibilities of Becoming a Parent

Baby Father

Most people don’t truly understand the full spectrum of what it means to be a parent before they bring a new child into this world. Not only are you responsible for raising a human being, but there are many legal responsibilities to consider as well.

The emotional rush of becoming a new parent is strong, and it can easily overwhelm your rational senses. It is important to remain grounded, and wait until you are fully prepared to live up to all the responsibilities of having a kid.

Check out a brief description of a few of the most vital legal responsibilities of becoming a parent, and consider whether or not you are truly equipped to fulfill the role of a parent.

Having a baby while married

When two people are married at the time of a child being born, then both of those individuals automatically share parental responsibility for the child. The exception to the rule is if someone else acknowledges the child prior to the birth.

In the event of a divorce, both parents remain legally responsible for the child, unless otherwise noted by the court. Even after years of divorce, both parents still retain the duty of maintenance for the child, which is where the arrangement of child support comes into play.

Having a baby without marriage

If you are not married when a child is born, and you’re not the one birthing the baby, then you must apply for parental rights to the child. Rights to the child are not automatically granted to you, even if you have been dating the mother for years.

Being a minor child’s legal representative

A minor child cannot perform legal actions on their own accord. They cannot sign themselves into a new school or bring an abuse case against the babysitter. That particular responsibility falls on the legal parents of the child.

Until your child turns 14, you are also legally responsible for anything illegal they do. For example, if your kid vandalizes someone else’s property, you will be held legally responsible for the cost of repairing the problem.

A few specific parental rights

Get educated on your rights as a parent, and read through a few specific rights.

As a legal parent of a child, you have the right to:

  • Physical custody/reasonable visitation or regular contact with the child.
  • Legal custody, which grants the ability to make life decisions for the childlike healthcare, education, and religious upbringing.
  • Pass on your property to your kid as a gift or inheritance.
  • Any earnings the child earns, and to inherent said earnings in the event of the child’s death.

Liability for maintenance of the child

You are legally responsible for maintaining the child’s well-being until the age of 21. Until the age of 21, a legal parent must provide financially for the education of the child and any other necessities of life.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, WA. A columnist for, and more. Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends.

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