by: Claudia Gilburd, Founder, Teen Law School, Inc. and attorney, Charles E. Davis

In many instances, the state of Arizona’s answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!” Until our kids turn 18, their behaviors, choices and activities can create civil liabilities for us as parents. Much more shattering, however, are the high costs our kids may have to pay for making foolish mistakes in ignorance of or disregard for the law. Kids live today in a world fraught with legal hazards, and we’ll talk about many of them here – computer and cell phone use (yes, even “sexting”), truancy, bullying, dating behavior and more. Our first article, however, is devoted to you and some of your potential parental liabilities under the law.

Protecting our kids from harm is our most important obligation, and the state agrees. Arizona law (A.R.S. 25.511) makes it is a Class 6 Felony (imprisonment up to 1 year and up to a $150,000 fine) if the parent of a minor child (under 18) knowingly fails to provide reasonable support for his or her child. Parents are responsible for providing proper parental care and control over their child or children. This includes providing adequate food, shelter and clothing. Failure to provide a basic education to age 16 and comply with minimum attendance requirements can result in misdemeanor charges against a parent (A.R.S. 15-802E). But what if your child injures another person or causes damage to another’s property?   If the act is purely accidental, you probably wouldn’t be found liable. But under A.R.S.12-661, the court can automatically assign to parents up to $10,000 in damages resulting from any malicious or willful misconduct of their minor child. This includes personal injury, property damage, theft or shoplifting.  In some cases and under judicial review, the amount of restitution can extend to the full amount the victim’s loss. The state will assign parental liability in the most serious cases as well. When a minor is referred to a juvenile detention facility, parents will be ordered to pay, to an extent the court determines, some portion or all of the juvenile’s food, clothing, education, health care and supervision while incarcerated, even if the parents were unaware of the offense, and had nothing to do with the commission of the offense. Information and education about the law are essential to keeping you and your kids safe and free from legal problems. The time to talk with your kids is now, before a problem arises and your family life is turned upside down. We hope this column will help you talk to your kids about the legal implications of the activities going on around them at school and at work. And as always, Davis Miles is here to consult with you on your specific situation.  Call us today!