The law is such a fascinating subject. I have personally been equal parts interested in it and also intimidated by it. I remember taking a law class in Grade 11 and trying my best to understand the tricky concepts (and a university class about Medieval Law, which was definitely much more confusing). A lot of people dream of becoming lawyers after watching dramas such as The Good Wife because TV makes the law look so fun and exciting. In reality, becoming a lawyer is a super long road full of paperwork and crazy hours, and it's not like TV at all.
We assume that we know the rule of the law when it comes to parenting. We know the basics: Parents have the right to make medical decisions for their children while they're young, and kids can't be left at home alone. We also might think that once we know about child custody law and divorce law, that's all that there is to know.
But there is actually a long list of parenting laws in the U.S. that we don't hear about as often. These laws are incredibly interesting, and once we learn about them, we will definitely wish that we had known about them.
Read on to find out about 20 fascinating parenting laws across the U.S.
20 Free-Range Parenting Was Passed In Utah, Which Means Kids Can Be Unsupervised
When we hear the term "free-range," we think of chickens and eggs (and we might think that they can be pretty pricey). But this is actually relevant to parenting law.
According to The National Post, free-range parenting was passed in Utah. Basically, this law means that kids can be unsupervised either at home or elsewhere. The publication explains, "Gov. Gary R. Herbert, R, signed the “free-range parenting” bill into law earlier this month after it passed unanimously in both chambers of Utah’s legislature." This means that kids can “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.”
Interesting, right? Most moms would probably agree that they would never want to leave their kids at home alone.
19 Baby Names In Illinois Can Have Numbers In Them
Did we have an easy time naming our babies or did we argue with our partner about it (even though we swore that we would stay calm, cool and collected)? It's normal to feel strongly attached to a certain name, and it's also normal to not agree on what our son or daughter will be called.
We might not think that there are laws about what to name babies in the U.S., but there definitely are. According to S. Mommy, babies in Illinois can have names that have numbers in them. This is so weird to hear about and doesn't seem like something that parents would actually do (at least hopefully). But it's cool to know that this is literally a law.
18 Some Parents Have To Adopt Kids If They Weren't Married When A Kid Was Born
If a couple has a child without being married but gets married later, we would assume that the child is both of theirs, right?
According to Nclrights.org, if same-gender parents weren't married when their child was born, then one of them has to adopt the child in order to have parenting rights. The website says, "Getting married doesn’t necessarily make you a parent to your children under the law. For example, in most states, you have to be married when your children are born to get any parenting protections. Parents who married after their children were born usually have to adopt to protect their rights."
17 Not Every State Legally Allows Second-Parent Adoption
Second-parent adoption is what it sounds like: when someone can adopt their partner's child and both of them are the legal parents. This is crucial for same-gender couples and families. It would seem like this would be legal in every U.S. state, but that's not the case. There are some states that say no.
According to Hrc.org, "Not all states allow second-parent adoptions. If second-parent adoption is unavailable where you live, you should prepare a written co-parenting agreement or a custody agreement with your partner. At least, you should gather other evidence that can prove that you are a family."
16 A 1993 Act Says New Parents Get Unpaid 12-Week Leave (But It Doesn't Apply To Everyone)
The first few months with a new baby are sleepless yet wonderful... but then comes the tricky part: figuring out how to take time off from work.
According to Fatherly, an act from 1993 gives new parents 12 weeks unpaid leave from work, but it, unfortunately, doesn't apply to everyone.
The website says, "The only federal protection for [U.S.] dads comes courtesy of 1993’s Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the FMLA, most new parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without the threat of job loss. That’s most parents, not all parents."
Who does this act apply to? It's a very specific category: It applies if someone has "worked 1,240 hours over 12 months at a company that employs more than 50 people." This doesn't apply to people who work for a small company or part-time. That means that 60 percent of employees in the U.S. can legally take leave based on this act.
15 Illinois Rules On Custody For Dog Moms And Dads
Couples often joke that they knew it was serious when they get a cat or a dog. If a couple breaks up, they sometimes work out a "joint custody" arrangement so both people can see their pet. It's usually said in a joking manner... but as it turns out, in Illinois, there is a divorce law that literally takes pets into account.
According to C. Sheet, judges can decide on joint or full custody of pets. As Illinois News Network explains, "A new Illinois divorce law will let a judge decide who is the best owner for the family pet." This is such a fascinating law. Hey, we knew that calling ourselves a proud dog mom was legit.
14 Only Five States Allow Paid Parental Leave
In Canada, moms and dads can legally take paid parental leave. The amount of time depends on the situation: according to The Globe and Mail, it could be 17 to 52 weeks for new moms, and dads can take employment insurance and have 35 weeks after the baby.
It's different in the U.S. As it turns out, only five states have paid parental leave. According to Fatherly, "Five states currently mandate paid parental leave. New York State, California, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Washington, D.C. now have laws in place requiring employers to provide paid leave to employees. Washington state passed a law, but it doesn’t go into effect until 2020. Fathers living in the rest of America only get paid leave if their employers offer it."
13 If You Want To Homeschool Your Kids In New York State, You Have To Prove That It's Going Well
Homeschooling is one of those parenting topics that get people talking. Some moms want to homeschool and feel that's the best choice, and others want their kids to have the social experience of a big educational institution.
New York state has a fascinating parenting law that is related to homeschooling: Parents actually have to prove that it's going well. According to Responsible Homeschooling, "Parents must file an annual notice with the local superintendent, compose and file annual individualized instruction plans, and turn in quarterly progress reports. Parents must provide the 'substantial equivalent' of 180 days of instruction in a detailed list of required subjects that vary by grade." Kids also have to take standardized tests each year or have a "portfolio evaluation."
And if your kids don't do well, you will be "on probation."
12 California Has A Tri-Parenting Law, So Kids Can Have Three Legal Parents
When we think of parents, we think of two people. But a fascinating parenting law was passed in California a few years ago that a kid can have three legal parents.
According to Blasser Law, there was a case where a woman was married with a baby, but the bio dad was someone other than her husband. The bio dad was around. As the publication explains, "The biological father’s parenting increased over time to every other weekend and some weekdays. The child’s parentage was known before birth and was never challenged. Three years after the child was born, the couple started to exclude the biological father from the child’s life. The husband filed a petition to confirm his parentage rights and exclude the biological father."
That definitely sounds like a complicated situation, and it's interesting to hear that in certain cases, a kid really can have three parents.
11 Maryland Moms And Dads Can Be In Trouble With The Law If Kids Skip School
If we skipped any classes in high school, we probably regret it today... and really don't want our own teenagers to do the same.
We know that it's not a good idea to skip school for obvious reasons (kids who do so will get in trouble, they will miss out on the lessons in class, they won't appreciate the fact that they get an education). There is a parenting law in Maryland where the parents will actually get into trouble here.
According to Reader's Digest, "In Maryland, the state has the power to put parents in jail if their child misses school, according to Rice — it’s known as the Truancy Law of Maryland. The guardian can’t be blamed if a hooky-playing teen is 16 or older..."
10 Child Support In Colorado Could Be As High As $30,000 A Year
As Forbes reports, child support laws are different in each state as there are different income levels. In Colorado, because of the average annual income, child support could be as high as $30,000 a year.
This parenting law is so fascinating since too many people, that would be a lot of money. But, of course, if we compare this to the kind of child support that celebrities pay, we see that it's really not so much at all. According to Ranker, for a time, Alex Rodriguez was giving his ex-wife $115,000 a month. (Yes, a month... Whoa). Now $30,000 doesn't quite seem like so much...
9 Moms Aren't Necessarily Favored In Child Custody Cases In New York State
When a couple gets divorced and they have children, we always assume that the mom will get full custody of the kids. This seems to be what happens in most cases, right? It often seems like it's best for the kid to stay with their mom.
According to Nycdivorces.com, moms aren't necessarily favored in child support cases in the state of New York: "Neither parent has a preferred right to custody of their children in New York. If there is no custody order, either parent can keep the child with him or her. If the case goes to court, the custody decision must be made in the 'best interests of the child.'"
8 Parents Who Live In Massachusetts And Want To Move Might Have Some Trouble
It's always sad when a couple gets divorced and one of them moves away, especially if they have kids. We feel bad for the children who won't see their parent all the time.
If a parent lives in Massachusetts and wants to move, they might not actually be able to, as there are laws about this. You need to get permission if you're divorced.
As Masslegalhelp.org explains, "Massachusetts has laws about moving out of state with your children. Massachusetts laws refer to this as 'removal' of the child from the state. These removal laws deal with when a parent must ask the other parent for consent to remove the child, and when, if the other parent does not give consent, the parent who seeks to remove the child must get permission from a judge."
7 Ohio Parenting Law Wants Parents To Literally Work Out A Plan
A divorced couple who has to co-parent will say that once they come to an agreement, can actually talk to each other without getting mad or bickering, and work out a schedule, their lives are so much happier. This is always the goal.
In Ohio, there is literally a law about a "parenting plan." According to Bdfamilylaw.com, "Ohio law refers specifically to shared parenting plans, where both parents’ rights and responsibilities are laid out, but even an order awarding one parent sole custody of a child could be considered a parenting plan." This honestly sounds amazing and like a really good idea.
6 The State Of Florida Will Literally Pick Your Baby's Name If You Can't Pick A Name In Time
Parents-to-be who live in Florida definitely want to come up with the perfect baby name before the state picks it. Yes, that can actually happen.
As The List explains, "If you live in Florida, state law dictates that, if you two can't decide, they will." The publication continues that this goes for first names and also last names: "If a couple cannot decide on whose last name to choose, both parents' surnames will be used. As the law states, the last names of both the mother and father will be separated with a hyphen and listed in alphabetical order." That's a bit more of an incentive to pick a baby name with time to spare, right?
5 Colorado Law Says Kids Can't Be Bedwetters Past Eight Years Old
If we ever wet the bed as kids, which we probably did since this does seem to happen to every child at least once, it was pretty embarrassing. No matter how much our mom comforted us and told us that it was totally fine, we couldn't help but feel bad about it. If our own kids have ever had accidents, we have told them the same comforting words.
We might not think that bedwetting could ever have a law about it... but it really does. According to Romper, there is a law in Colorado that really does talk about how old kids can be when they wet the bed. It says that kids can't be bedwetters past eight years old.
4 You Can't Give A Baby A Name Longer Name Than 141 Characters In Arizona
There are so many laws about baby names and they are honestly all fascinating. If we have any friends or relatives who are about to be parents and are struggling with coming up with names, we can tell them about some of these laws. Chances are, it will make them smile and help them de-stress during what can be a pressured situation.
Did we know that for parents in Arizona, baby names have to be a certain length? It's true. According to The Bump, "In Arizona, there’s a 141 character limit — 45 for the first name, 45 for middle, 45 for last and 6 for a suffix. Apostrophes, hyphens, periods and spaces are okay."
3 In Ohio, Divorcing Parents Might Have To Take A Class To Make Sure They're Good Parents
We all know that, unfortunately, not everyone is an amazing parent, although we like to think that everyone does the best that they can for their kids.
In Ohio, if parents get divorced, they could be told to take a class, and it seems like this is basically to check that they're going to be good parents and get along with each other after the divorce. As Bdfamilylaw.com explains, "Courts often mandate that parents undergo a mandatory parenting class to ensure that everyone involved can respond positively to the adjustment after a divorce. If you are required to take a class, expect topics such as conflict resolution, financial responsibilities, positive parenting techniques and an explanation of resources available to you."
2 Stay-At-Home Dads Are Called "Vagrants" According To Florida Law
There are many laws in the U.S. that have been around for a long time and don't necessarily seem to be enforced these days but they are still technically part of the law. That seems to be the case with this particular, fascinating law: In Florida, stay-at-home dads are called "vagrants," as Romper explains.
This sounds pretty wild, right? We would hope that we can all agree that stay-at-home moms and stay-at-home dads are equally respected and that however someone chooses to raise their child is totally cool. We would definitely never refer to a SAHD as a "vagrant." No way.
1 You Don't Have To Put A Name On Your Baby's Birth Certificate In Connecticut
It's true that sometimes, we don't use the same first name that is on our birth certificate because we go by a nickname. According to The List, a baby name rule in Connecticut goes one step further: It's okay in this state to not put your baby's name on their birth certificate.
Sure, this could make things less stressful and easier if parents couldn't choose the baby name yet... but doesn't this seem super strange? Chances are, we can all agree that we want to know our baby's name before they're born and definitely before they have a birth certificate. It just seems so weird to have a birth certificate with zero names.
How did we not know about these 20 fascinating parenting laws before?!
Sources: Nationalpost.com, Nclrights.org, Fatherly.com, Responsiblehomeschooling.org, Hrc.org, Rd.com, Forbes.com, Nycdivorces.com, Masslegalhelp.org, Bdfamilylaw.com, Thelist.com, Ranker.com, Theglobeandmail.com, Ilnews.org