Legal Vs. Ethical Obligations For Your Children
No Duty To Pay For College, Car Etc.
What does “duty” mean when it comes to paying for your children’s needs? First, let’s look at the legal definition for “duty”, the one found online at Black’s Law Dictionary: “In its use in Jurisprudence this word is the correlative of right. Thus, whenever there exists a right in any person, there also rests a corresponding duty upon some other person or upon all persons generally. But it is also used, in a wider sense, to designate that class of moral obligations which lie outside the jural sphere; such, namely, as rest upon an imperative ethical basis, but have not been recognized by the law as within its proper province for purposes of enforcement or redress. Thus, gratitude towards a benefactor is a duty, but its refusal will not ground an action.” In this meaning ‘duty’ is the equivalent of moral ‘obligation’ as distinguished from a ‘legal obligation’.
In simple terms, when it comes to your children’s needs, you have a legal duty, or responsibility, to provide whatever obligations the court sets down in a judgment or you can expect a legal action against you for the omission. On the other hand, as a parent, there are many obligations, which, depending on your circumstances both financial and filial, you should ethically provide for your children, but failing to do so will not bring about any legal action against you. Let’s now look at what legal duties might ensue verses what ethical duties might be appropriately considered for your children’s well being.
Legal duties, obligations: based on Florida Family Law, which is adamant about the philosophy “in the best interest of the child” if there is to be a legal judgment regarding your duties or obligations as a parent, the following will likely be addressed:
- Child support
- Health insurance
- Life insurance
- At least one overnight spent with your minor child/children.
- Shared decision making with the other parent including medical, religious, education, and discipline issues.
- Pay a percentage portion of such expenses as doctor co-pays, dental, athletic and/or lesson expenses, counseling, day care, and/or camps, to name a few.
- If there are special needs minor children their particular additional expenses will be shared and child support continued beyond age l8.
- Continued child support for a child beyond the age of l8 if he/she will be considered a dependent while attending university.
Ethical duties, obligations: In the area of ethics there is, of course, a wide variance of just what a parent feels is “right” to provide for their minor child/children. A lot depends on the financial situation a parent is in but, and sometimes unfortunately, it usually depends on just how much a parent wants to be involved with their child/children’s life/lives. In fact, some parents will do only what they are adjudicated to do and no more. What is ethical to one person may or may not be ethical to someone else. Here are some possible ethical obligations a parent might consider:
- Providing adequate and appropriate clothing.
- Making sure there are fun and educational outings on a regular basis.
- Attending functions where their child/children are involved, even when there are costs involved.
- Helping to pay for University expenses
- Providing gifts such as a bicycle, skateboard, graduation prom formal, etc.
- Helping purchase a car.
- Helping with homework and providing necessary electronic devices and study aids such as a calculator and computer.
- Providing an allowance and/or reasonable amount of spending money (depending on age of child).
In the final analysis, there will be legal obligations that you must pay and there will be ethical obligations you should pay, given your set of circumstances. And, in the end, the law will decide what you must legally pay in the care and nurturing of your child/children; you will decide what you will ethically do for the care and nurturing of your child/children.