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    Should kids be allowed to sue their parents?

    Date: 09.21.11 | by Judge Tom.

    Family and parent-child relationships are challenging enough without courts becoming involved to heighten the aggravation and frustration of daily life. However, some state laws allow lawsuits by children against their parents in cases of severe neglect, wrongful death of a parent or sibling or other specific instances.

    If the lawsuit is frivolous or without any legal merit, it should be dismissed by the court. A judge in Illinois did just that in the case of Kathryn Miner and her brother, Steven Miner, II.* Although raised in a luxurious home with their attorney father, they felt their mother did an inadequate job in raising them when they visited her. In 2009, when Kathryn and Steven were 18 and 21, respectively, they sued her for “emotional distress” from “bad mothering.” To support their claim of “intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress,” they cited examples of Kimberly Garrity’s behavior, including:

    …getting a birthday card without money inside
    …being told to be home at midnight
    …not receiving care packages while away at college
    …telling 7 year-old Steven to buckle his seat belt or she would call the police
    …refusing to take Kathryn to a car show
    …failing to buy toys for one of them

    Kathryn & Steven (Photo from Katdish.net)

    The trial court dismissed the case and Kathryn and Steven appealed the decision. In August, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the dismissal of the lawsuit. The judge who wrote the opinion stated that if Steven and Kathryn had succeeded in their litigation, it “could potentially open the floodgates to subject family child-rearing to…excessive judicial scrutiny and interference.” The suit did not state a legal cause of action nor was Kimberly’s behavior “extreme or outrageous” as required under the law to support a claim of negligent parenting. A final appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court may be taken.

    “Such alleged actions are unpleasant and perhaps insensitive, and some would arguably fall outside the realm of ‘good mothering,’ but they are not so shocking as to form a basis for a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the court ruled.

    Courts are reluctant to get involved in matters that should be handled outside of the legal arena. Not everything needs to go to court nor should there be a law about every aspect of life. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to address the issue of a student’s dress at school preferring not to micromanage the work of school districts. States are also debating whether to criminalize“sexting” or leave it to parents and schools to regulate. What do you think?

    *Minor v. Garrity, 2011 Illinois Court of Appeals #1103023-U.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    4 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Thu, 22 Sep 2011 at 12:52

      New blog post: Should kids be allowed to sue their parents? – Family and parent-child relationships are challenging … http://t.co/8gvOKY3O

    • Tulsa Marriage Counseling
      Thu, 22 Sep 2011 at 07:24

      If we do allow children to sue their parents the court system will be even more bogged down than it already is.

    • Divorce Lawyers Tulsa
      Fri, 23 Sep 2011 at 07:35

      Negative. These types of lawsuits damage the credibility of the legal system.

    • jason bruce
      Wed, 01 May 2013 at 01:11

      I live in California, and my father and his girlfriend held me down while burning me with a cigarette, among other forms of abuse.

      I have PTSD, and have difficulty trusting people, and relationships in general.

      Can I sue them for neglegence and torture?
      Dear Jason: The answer to your question depends on the specific circumstances of the incident. We don’t provide legal advice to our readers. We are an educational site for teens about the laws that affect them. If you are under age 18, physical abuse should be reported to the police or Child Protective Services. An investigation will take place and action may be taken against your father and his girlfriend depending on the outcome of the investigation. If you’re an adult, you need to talk with a lawyer in your area about your rights and remedies regarding this situation. Good luck.
      (This is information only – not legal advice).

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