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The Four Limits of Parental Authority

The Line Between Abuse, Neglect and Criminal Acts in Indiana

One of the strongest constitutional protections is the fundamental right to raise children without the State telling parents how to do it. However, everyone understands that freedoms and rights come with responsibilities and obligations. This is also true for children. Indiana is a conservative legal state, but has drawn lines where those rights end and move into civil or criminal acts on children by parents. This blog explores four key areas where a parent’s decision may go too far.

Where this occurs, the State may become involved and take civil or criminal action against the parent and the child may be deemed a child in need of services (the product of neglect or abuse) or a delinquent (a criminal but for age). In these first two cases, the child may be removed from the home and placed in a guardian’s home (CHINS) or in detention (delinquency). In CHINS cases, the family will be provided services to reunify the family. However, if these are unsuccessful, the parent-child relationship may be terminated.

Second, in delinquency cases, the child commits what may be a criminal act. The child is detailed and determined through court proceedings to be a delinquent. If the crime is significant or the child is nearing the legal age of maturity, he or she may be waived into adult court and prosecuted as an adult criminal and convicted as such. Both cases give the parents and child the right to due process and counsel to navigate these complex waters. A juvenile delinquency adjudication may result in life-long consequences or at least those that last until the child is 23. Thus, it is prudent for the parents and child to have counsel.

Outside the juvenile court arena is medical or educational neglect. In these cases, a parent’s fundamental right to raise his or her child is subverted to the child’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Here if the parents fail to obtain medical care and it rises to a risk to the child or the child cannot function in society, educational neglect may be found in a CHINS or divorce or paternity case, with a wide array of judicial remedies, such as modifying custody.

Educational neglect is similar, and the fourth topic of coverage of this blog and the limits of the rights of parents. With educational neglect, a parent may refuse to obtain ADHD medication for a child or allow him or her to miss a significant number of days of school. At some point, this impacts the child and educational neglect may lie. This may result in custody modification to a CHINS and termination of parental rights.

Thus, while parents have the strongest right to raise their child and the State cannot substitute its decision, there are limits as explored in the four common examples set forth in this blog, which was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. Our attorneys practice domestic cases and handle these throughout the State of Indiana. This blog is not intended as specific advice or a solicitation for service. It is an advertisement.


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Dixon & Moseley, P.C., is a law firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. We serve clients in six core practice areas: family lawappellate practicefirearms lawgeneral practicepersonal injury and criminal law.

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Based in Indianapolis and founded in 1995, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. is a niche law firm focused on successfully dealing with the complexities of divorce, high-conflict child custody and family law. Known for their ability to solve extremely complex situations with high quality work and responsiveness, Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will guide you every step of the way. The family law attorneys at Dixon & Moseley, P.C. will help you precisely identify your objectives and the means to reach your desired result. Life is uncertain. Be certain of your counsel. Indianapolis Divorce Attorneys, Dixon & Moseley, P.C.

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