What Are My Legal Rights As a Parent With My 17 Year Old Son?

By Maria Lassen

Updated December 04, 2018

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As a parent, you're legally responsible for the care and upbringing of your child until he reaches the age of majority. In most states, a child isn't considered a legal adult until he reaches the age of 18. You can still exercise your parental rights and make decisions on his behalf until he reaches the age of 18, or if he becomes legally emancipated before then or your rights are terminated by a court.

Parental Rights Include Parental Control

Not only are you financially responsible for your son, but you also have control over many aspects of his life. It's up to you where he goes to school and who he's allowed to socialize with. You have the right to decide what religion he follows and the house of worship he attends. You have the right to control his finances as well if he's working.

Medical Treatment

You are also responsible for providing your son with any necessary medical treatment. You have the right to choose what treatments he should or should not receive. Some religions don't believe in certain medical treatments, however, and a court can override your decision not to treat your son if the judge finds that the denial of treatment would be life threatening.

Some states allow 17-year-olds to receive medical treatment without a parent's permission for certain conditions, such as treatment for a sexually transmitted disease or mental health.

Parental Right to Punish

You still have the right to punish him accordingly if your son is disobedient, even though he's 17. There's a big difference between punishment and child abuse, however.

Grounding him because he stayed out after curfew is appropriate, whereas getting physically violent is not. If he refuses to follow your rules and is dangerously out of control, you always have the option to call the authorities. This could result in your son possibly having a criminal record as a juvenile, however.

Emancipation: When a Minor Becomes an Adult

Emancipation occurs when a child under the age of 18 legally becomes an adult. Depending on the laws in your state, this can happen if your child petitions the court requesting emancipation, if he gets married or if he joins the military. If your 17-year-old son has been granted an order of emancipation, he's considered an adult so you would no longer be able to exercise your rights as a parent.

When Parental Rights are Terminated

There are cases where the court can terminate a parent's rights to his child, including removing a child from a parent's custody to protect him from harm or to make it possible for another adult, such as a stepparent, to adopt him.

The court can take these actions even when a child is 17 years old, although in most adoption cases, a teenager must express his consent to the adoption. When a stepparent seeks to adopt a child, the child's biological parent may terminate his parental rights voluntarily or the court can terminate them involuntarily if it deems this action is in the child's best interest.