Sunday, July 17th, 2011 | Author: mjward

There is a knock on the door. The stranger standing there asks, “Louisa Miller?” When you say, “Yes,” she slaps a paper in your hand and leaves. You stare at the notice telling you that your child is suing you.

The first reaction is dismay, followed by anger. How could this be happening to you? What kind of child takes a parent to court to get damages for a wrong she believes you have done her? You may call a relative or close friend. Then you find a lawyer.

This situation probably occurs more often than you imagine. In the past, children were considered the property of their parents. Parents had almost absolute power over them. What happened inside the house was nobody else’s business. Children have, over time, gained rights that limit parents’ authority to exploit them financially or to abuse them. These rights have eventually included the right to sue their parents.

There are several types of lawsuits. These include disputes over property and disagreements about inheritance. A child may feel entitled to financial support from the parent. For example, a mother may be receiving child support from an ex-husband even though her daughter has moved out. The daughter may sue to have the support paid directly to her. Some cases involve damages for being a child-abuse or incest victim. Parents have also been sued for failure to protect their child from abuse by a family member. In the past, some young people have sued parents who kidnapped them from a cult they had joined and deprogrammed them. Others have sued because they were required to do so in order to get a settlement from an insurance company after an accident.

Children may sue parents when they reach the legal age for adulthood. If the child is not yet an adult, a guardian can sue on his or her behalf. In most jurisdictions, an individual has a limited period of time after reaching adulthood during which a lawsuit may be started. In some areas, sexual abuse receives special consideration. The time clock may start to run when the victim retrieves suppressed memories of the abuse. In some places, there is no statute of limitations on bringing a suit for sexual abuse.

Lawsuits are expensive. Parents may choose to settle out of court, sometimes through the services of a mediator. They see this as cheaper in the long run because it limits the fees they pay to their lawyer. It also cuts short the length of time the whole matter lasts. Besides, the outcome of a trial is uncertain.

A lawsuit damages, even destroys, family relationships. Usually there is a serious rift between parent and child before the suit. After it, there is scant possibility of reconciliation. The division affects other family members, too, because they take sides in the dispute. It is no wonder that one writer refers to such lawsuits as a form of family homicide.

After the lawsuit is over, you are left with lasting pain and anger toward at least one child. Part of your family is probably cut off. You may lose contact with grandchildren. Your family may be in tatters. But you have survived.

Sources:  Intra-family lawsuits and immunity. (2011, July 8). Available

Johnson, M. (2010, August 19). Adoptive parents prosecuted for failure to protect children. Available

Kaslow, F. W. (1990). Children who sue parents: A new form of family homicide? Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 16, 151-163.

Kroll, J. J., & Driscoll, S. P. (2007, February). The incredible expanding/shrinking right of children to sue “parents.” Tort Law IBJ. Available

Category: About Families
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