Family Law

Children's Rights

One of the primary focuses of family law is children. The term child refers not only to minors, but also includes adult children. The Department of Health and Human Services administers the Children's Bureau, which deals with "all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people." (42 U.S.C., Ch. 6, § 192) The Child Abuse Prevention and Adoption Reform Act (42 U.S.C., Ch. 67) also grants the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to create an Office of Child Abuse and Neglect. This office is responsible for coordinating government agencies connected with child abuse and neglect. The Act also strives to remove obstacles that stand in the way of families who wish to adopt foster children.

A child may go through the legal process of emancipation—where a person below the age of majority gains specific rights, similar to those granted to adults, and becomes free of control or authority of his or her parent or legal guardian. The rights granted to emancipated minors vary by jurisdiction and may be partial or complete. In some instances, parental consent is needed to achieve emancipation, and in others permission from a court is necessary.