Parent Child Relationships: Duties Owed to Minor Children
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 4:24PM in Family Law, child support, legal duties of parents

I have children on the brain these days since Paul and I are expecting the arrival of our first child this summer. To put a legal spin on my preoccupation, I decided to do a blog post on legal aspects of the parent-child relationship. Specifically, what parental duties does Illinois law recognize?

Photo by Jonathan Fitch

Duty of Support

The parental duty of support is driven by public policy. The reasoning goes something like this: Parents have a duty to provide financial support to their children because if parents fail to provide for their children, the State will be forced to use their resources to provide the support. By recognizing this duty, the State is able to enact child support statutes and enforcement procedures.

Under Illinois law, both parents have a duty to support their minor children. It does not matter if you are the mom or dad. So how much support is enough? Illinois uses statutory guidelines to determine child support payments. For one child, the guideline is 20% of the parent’s net income, with a upward scale as the number of children increases. The maximum percentage is 50% for six or more children.

Most of the law relating to child support happens in the context of divorce. The law assumes that the custodial parent, who is in charge of the physical care of the child, meets his or her support obligation by providing food, shelter, transportation, clothing and any other need that arises. The non-custodial parent meets his or her support obligation by paying child support, usually fixed by the guidelines.

Duty to Pay Medical, Educational and Legal Expenses

Under the Illinois Family Expense Statute, 750 ILCS 65/15, parents are responsible for paying the medical expenses of their minor children. Parents also have an obligation to pay for the educational expenses of their minor children. The law does not recognize an absolute duty for parents to pay college expenses, but a court can order this payment as part of divorce proceedings. Courts have even found parents to have an obligation to pay for the legal expenses of their minor children.

Duty to Protect and Shelter

Parents are also required to protect the physical safety of their minor children and provide shelter. This duty allows the State to bring actions against parents for neglecting or endangering their children.

Thanks for allowing me to indulge in my own education. Four more months to go before Baby Haske arrives.

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