If a child become a charge on the Poor Law authority a mother, failing an order being made on the father, is bound to contribute to its maintenance if she is able. This responsibility does not cease becauso the child is an adult. It applies also to grandchildren, but no liability falls upon the mother if the father has sufficient means to pay. So long as she is unmarried or a widow, the mother of an illegitimate child is bound to maintain it until the child reaches the age of 16. She is the childs guardian and can object to a marriage under 21. Her wishes in regard to the childs religion must be regarded.
Children born in wedlock take the domicil of the father at the time of their birth. Where the father is dead the domicil is the same as that of the mother.
The Childs Duty to Parent There remains to be considered the question of the childs duty towards the parent. This is very light. No matter how rich the child may be and how poor the parent, no obligation is imposed on the child until his parent become chargeable to the Poor Law authority. A second marriage of the mother does not remove this liability, which falls equally upon adopted children and upon those legitimated by statute.
Where parents have dealt in a childs property he can sue them in regard to it and the Limitation Act (which enacts that actions not brought within a certain time shall not be maintained), provides that the statutory period shall not begin to run against the child until its twenty-first birthday. Under the Fatal Accidents Act and the Workmens Compensation Acts, children are entitled to claim for damages in respect of the death of their parents.
A father is not responsible for his childs crimes, though, as has been pointed out, he may be ordered to enter into recognizance to exercise proper care and guardianship. In other ways, too, the father suffers for his childs crimes, for as a result he may lose the custody. Children and young persons under 17 who are charged with offences are dealt with in Juvenile Courts in conditions of secrecy. Parents must attend the hearing in most cases. It is presumed that no child under the age of eight can be guilty of any offence.