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Parents' and Kinship Caregivers' Rights

Parents' and Kinship Caregivers' Rights

Mom Teenson

If you have a new baby, you may have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a parent. If an adult family member is taking care of your baby, you may have questions about your relative’s rights and responsibilities as a kinship caregiver. There is a lot of information available to help you learn what you need to know.

What Are My Rights and Responsibilities as a Parent?

All parents have these rights and responsibilities: to be with and care for their child; to make decisions about their child’s life, such as education, health care, religion, and where they live; and to support their child financially. These rights and responsibilities continue until your child is 18 years old, or married, or legally emancipated.

Remember, if you and your baby’s other parent are not married at the time of your baby’s birth, then the dad will not have any legal rights or responsibilities until his paternity is legally established.

Can Someone Be a Legal Parent Even if They Aren’t the Biological Parent?

It’s possible, but not common. Usually only biological and adoptive parents have legal rights and responsibilities to their children. But sometimes a court will give someone parental rights even if they are not a biological parent. This is more likely if you have lived in the same house as your child for the first two years of your child’s life and have publicly told people you are your child’s mom or dad.

Can I Name My Baby Anything I Want?

Basically yes, although it’s always best for both parents to agree on the name. The last name you choose can be mom’s, dad’s, or another name altogether.

What if My Baby Lives With Only One Parent?

Are you wondering whether both parents have the same rights to see your baby? It depends. If you are not married, the biological father does not have any legal right to see your baby until paternity has been legally established. Once the father’s paternity is legally established, it’s usually a good idea to get an order from the court called a parenting plan. A parenting plan establishes who your child will live with most of the time, and how much time the other parent will be able to see the child. It makes things clear for both parents and child. A parenting plan can prevent conflicts now or in the future—for example, if the baby’s other parent suddenly wants to be a bigger part of their child’s life. 

Do I Still Have to Follow My Parents’ Rules?

Yes. If you are younger than 18, unmarried, or not legally emancipated, your parents (or your guardian) are still legally responsible for you and have to make sure you are taken care of. Read more about this issue. You will also find answers to the following questions whatever state you live in: Am I old enough to be a parent? Do I have to do certain things as a parent? How long do I have to care for my child?

What Kind of Care Do My Parents or Guardians Have to Give Me?

Your parents’ (or guardian’s) responsibilities to you do not change if you have a baby, as long as you are under 18, unmarried, and not legally emancipated. Your parents or guardian still must give you food, clothing, a safe place to live, and health care, and they must supervise you.

But your parents or guardian do not have to help you with your baby. They don’t even have to let the baby live in their home.

Can My Parents Make Me Leave Home Because I’m Pregnant or Have a Child?

Even if you are pregnant or have a baby, your parents’ or guardians’ responsibilities to you do not end. If they decide you cannot live with them, they must find a safe place for you to live. They don’t have any legal responsibility to find your child a safe place to live. That is your responsibility. If you are living with your parents, it’s important to talk to them about how you will care for your child.

Can My Parents Tell Me What to Do About My Pregnancy?

No. only the pregnant woman has the right to decide what to do about her pregnancy. She can choose to raise the baby with or without the baby’s father, terminate the pregnancy, or place the baby for adoption.

What if My Baby Lives with a Relative?

If your baby is living with and being raised by a relative, that relative is called a kinship caregiver. Kinship caregivers can be grandparents, aunts, uncles, or adult brothers or sisters. There are lots of financial, legal, and emotional issues for kinship caregivers to learn about.

Start with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) website that covers legal, health, support, and financial information and then check the Washington Law Help website for additional information.

Learn More

A note for the parents of pregnant and parenting minors:

You may have a number of questions and concerns that are not addressed on this website. Kidshealth.org provides a good overview of emotional, medical, and lifestyle changes. 

This site from California covers information about your rights and duties to your child and grandchild. Washington State law may differ slightly, so always check with local experts as well.