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Can we Legally Throw Out Our 16-Year-Old Son?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 14 Jun 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Child Parental Responsibility Legal Duty

Q.

I have a 16-year-old stepson who has been in a group home and after he returned home, he was expelled from school for breaking and entering and also for vandalism.

What are the legal ramifications that we as parents will face if we throw him out of our house?

He causes constant turmoil and was initially removed from our home for peeking at my 12-year-old daughter while she was in the shower. Please help!

(Mrs K.L, 17 October 2008)

A.

The parents of a child have certain responsibilities to care for that him or her which are covered by the legal concept of parental responsibility. A person with Parental Responsibility for a child has the legal duty to protect, house and provide for them.

Not all parents have parental responsibility. The birth mother of a child will automatically have parental responsibility. An unmarried father of a child born prior to 1 December 2003 will not have parental responsibility for the child unless he enters into a parental responsibility agreement with the child’s mother or obtains a court order granting parental responsibility. Even parents without parental responsibility have a legal duty to provide for their children financially.

It is not clear from your question whether you have formally adopted your stepson and whether your partner is the boy’s mother or father. The degree of legal responsibility that you and your partner have for the boy may depend on the answers to the following questions:

  • Is your partner the boy’s mother? If so, she will almost certainly have parental responsibility for the child, as there are very limited circumstances in which a birth mother can lose parental responsibility.
  • Is your partner the boy’s father? If so, whether or not he has parental responsibility will depend on whether he was married to the boy’s mother or entered into a parental responsibility agreement with her or obtained a court order granting him parental responsibility. If the answer to any of these is yes, your partner will have parental responsibility.
  • Have you formally adopted the boy? If you have legally adopted him, you are likely to have parental responsibility for him. Since 2005, step parents have also been able to apply for parental responsibility orders.

How Long Does Parental Responsibility Last?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the duties towards a child which come with parental responsibility continue until the child is 18. In the case of children between the age of 16 and 18, parental responsibility ends if the child marries.

In some circumstances where parental responsibility was conferred by a court order, it may end upon expiry of the order. Alternatively, a court order ending the parental responsibility may be obtained. The child’s birth mother can only lose her parental responsibility if the child is adopted.

I have referred to your stepson as a boy or child because, in legal terms, that is what he is until he turns 18. Technically, a person with parental responsibility for a child, who fails to look after that child, could be prosecuted for child neglect. Therefore, if either of you do have parental responsibility for this boy, it would be inadvisable to throw him out. Clearly the current situation is unsustainable and you all need help of some kind.

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My partner daughter came to live with him 2years ago she is 15 going to be 16 in 3weeks. She has coursed nothink but problems thiefs been arrested mouthing off does what she wants doesn't roll in till early in mornings and some off the lies she has told are sickening I mean really sickening. She talks to random men and woman that are married. My partner and I carnt cope anymore she says she wants the help but she has been offered it so many times and refuse. My partner wants to know if he can kick her out at 16 take her to social and say he doesn't want her living with him no more she has brought his depression back on...
Jackz - 14-Jun-20 @ 4:05 PM
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Debman - 18-May-20 @ 11:21 AM
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Shiv - 10-May-20 @ 2:53 PM
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Angie - 4-May-20 @ 4:14 AM
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MiNi - 22-Apr-20 @ 11:24 PM
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Kimi - 11-Apr-20 @ 2:37 AM
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PJL - 10-Apr-20 @ 2:24 PM
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None - 1-Dec-19 @ 12:05 AM
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Ann - 1-Dec-19 @ 12:03 AM
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SV - 27-May-19 @ 2:05 PM
Jojo and Minoo ... my situation with my 16 year old son is the mix of your two situations... this is tearing me apart and killing me inside but I really can't cope anymore ... it's been a year and he doesn't change, doesn't respect me and thinks he is above the law and treats me like if I have no power or choice in our family home ...
Xana - 19-May-19 @ 2:01 PM
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Sammy - 24-Jan-19 @ 8:22 PM
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Anonymous111 - 16-Jan-19 @ 9:37 PM
Hi All, As a parent of an 8 year old boy who has been a tyrant from day one. I can tell you something I've learn't. The most critical years of childhood are from 0 to 10/12. After this age just like a tree or plant the child is almost formed. It's not possible to do much after the age 14/15 in terms of trying to discipline etc. The answer to this country wide problem is two fold 1. good parenting (which you can only learn from good books) 2. Boarding high school (costs money!). The state needs to provide for such tearaway children it's not their fault they are very different that's all. You can't change a donkey into a horse or vice versa but you can accept it for what it is and try your best to help it. Instead of hating your child help him, as a parent you have 10X more power to do so. Even Hitler loved his parents, they may hated what he did but hopefully still loved him as their son upto the point of WWII. Once a child is 16 it's time to reap what you have sowed, if you received the seed of stinging nettle make it into the best one in the world, for it too has beauty in it. Yup sure it stings when you hug it but it too has a natural beauty. Look for the goodness in your son or daughter and praise it, don't look for the thorns all the time. Easier said then done I know but think of Anthony Joshua, what an amazing man he has turned out to be. Instead of taking the wrong path he found a better one ..boxing. When he told his mum what he wanted to do ofcourse she was worried but she encouraged him instead by saying "you knock them out".Encouragement is the best gift you can give to the most difficult child in the world, this is because even the most difficult child in the world wants to be successful, they don't know how to. Would you rather a drug dealer show him the way instead of you? Good luck!
BMP - 22-Oct-18 @ 11:16 AM
Hi, I have 5 children 17,11,8,4 & 8 months my 17 year old is constantly arguing and causing problems for the rest of the household. We live in fear of him and have no idea what he is going to do next he is violent and abusive and we never know what he is going to do next.He works full time all I wan to do is protect my other children but protect him too but I have no idea where to turn.
Jrg - 9-Oct-18 @ 10:00 PM
Hello, my two daughters who are wholly disrespectful, abusive and are bringing my wife to a nervous-breakdown are constantly claiming they both want to leave home despite everything being at their fingertips thanks to their mother & I. Tuesday we evicted them both. One is 20 & the other 17. We gave them the means and instruction to go to their grandparents house - which they claimed they wanted to do. They since decided not to travel to their grandparents but stay at a friends house. Can you confirm our legal position on this please. Thank you.
BW - 13-Sep-18 @ 11:35 AM
So I have a 16yr old son who is verbally abusive & a drug dealer.He is stoned most of the time & known to the police & social services.His dad & I are being held prisoners in our house as we never know what’s going to happen.Social services do nothing & say that because he comes from a loving & wealthy family they can’t help.He’s been arrested several times but the police hold their hands up & say there’s nothing they can do.He has a younger brother who is traumatised by living in such an aggressive atmosphere.We can’t go on holiday as he won’t come with us & we can’t leave him.His dad & I are both professionals & have offered our son a variety of jobs as he didn’t sit his GCSEs but he makes more from dealing.I’ve offered to pay for rehab/therapy but he doesn’t want it.Any ideas?
Jojo - 27-Aug-18 @ 4:52 PM
My 16 year old son smoking weed.I spoke with him many times but no point. He brings his friends here to do that when im at work and I am so worried to something happpens same as fire etc. I told him if he does not obey my role he has to leave my house and he hasnt done. I want to change the lock and dont lem him in. Can I? And what shall I do?
Minoo - 1-Aug-18 @ 7:52 AM
Lin - Your Question:
I am divorced. I want to know how old my child does not need the consent of his father to go away on holiday with me?Because the father is really bad. and does not allowed his child to go on holiday. In the meantime he never take him.

Our Response:
You can take a child abroad for 28 days without getting permission if a child arrangement order says the child must live with you, unless a court order says you can’t.
LawAndParents - 25-Jul-18 @ 12:21 PM
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