family solicitors: can a teenager hire a solicitor?

(and Other Questions)

Minors and Law

  • Can a teenager hire a solicitor?

Yes.

There are a few situations when children and teenage minors would need to obtain the legal counsel of their own family solicitors. The most common is when the child has suffered or needs to be protected from physical or emotional harm. The other, is when they need to be able to enforce their own rights or enter a contract.

Where the parent or guardian is unwilling to help the child or is the one that is causing them harm, then the child has the right to obtain their own legal counsel and is represented to the fullest extent possible under the law.

If a teenager is arrested or accused of a crime, they can choose their own solicitor or get a Duty Solicitor for free, who will then go to court for them.

  • Can a child sue their own parents?

Yes. A child can sue their parent for child abuse and child support. If the parents steal from the child in contravention of a contract they signed that sets aside money for the child’s use (such as in the case of, for example, child talent), there is ample reason to try to sue and recover the theft. Child actors have successfully sued before to prevent theft and mismanagement by their parents.

It is also common to file a dispute on inheritance and properties that children are entitled to, as these items are completely separate from the shared family assets that parents have to manage. It is a crime to take things that are held in trust.

Unfortunately, for the most part children have little recourse against the seizure of their property by their guardians. But this in itself is parental financial abuse. This is a crime and should be reported.

For a much less severe example, children also have data protection rights that may conflict between Article 8 (right to privacy) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) with regard to their information and photographs shared on social media. This is still a new and untested field, but in theory, a child could ask with urgent power of law to have their personal information shared by their parents to be removed. This would likely end up directly being aimed at the online platform though. A court complaint, in this case, would be the prevention of further ‘sharenting’.

  • How can a teenager hire a solicitor if they do not have the funds?

It is possible to apply for Legal Aid at any age. A child may consult with a family solicitor at any time, and how the remuneration is handled would be up to the lawyer. However, for minors filing a case through the civil or family courts, most often this will have to be done through action of a Litigation Friend.

  • Who or what is a Litigation Friend?

A litigation friend is someone that may apply or be appointed to help a child or protected person with their legal issues. They make decisions about the case, sign legal documents, attend court hearings, and meet with solicitors. They are trusted to make decisions such as whether or not to accept a settlement. This is a huge responsibility and the litigation friend must never make decisions about the claim in their own interests.

A litigation friend can be the parent or guardian, a family member, a close friend, an advocate, or Court of Protection deputy, or someone with a power of attorney. The court decides the suitability of the litigation friend if their interests do not conflict with the person concerned. For this reason, sometimes the litigation friend would not necessarily be the child’s present guardian.

  • When can a teenager sue or be sued?

On age 18, a teenager may sue or be sued in their own right. They may however be a claimant in any legal case. 

  • But can a minor be sued any earlier?

Minors can be prosecuted for a criminal offense once they are over the age of 10. Youth crime is treated differently from a lawsuit that is calling for damages because it is the Youth Justice System that handles these criminal matters in totality.

When a case is brought to civil court, the claimant would often be taking action against the parents of the defendant. Parents are held responsible for their children’s behavior and should take care that damage or harm is not caused by the minors in their care.

If the minor is deemed old enough to take responsibility for their own actions or negligence, then they can be named directly as the defendant but their age will be taken into consideration for their defense or sentencing.

  • How old do you have to be to file a complaint for discrimination?

You can make a complaint at any age if you believe you are discriminated against on the basis of race, religion or belief, disability, sex, and sexual orientation.

Minors and Employment

  • When can a teen legally apply to work and earn their own money?

According to UK Laws on Child employment, the youngest age a child can work part-time is 13, unless the children are engaged in performance work like

  • Television
  • Theater
  • Modeling
  • Sporting
  • And similar pursuits that require a performance license.

Starting from age 16, teenagers may engage in full-time work. There remain restrictions on the hours and days they may work (see below re: restrictions on child employment).

  • How much should a child that works should be paid?

School-age children (before 16 years of age) are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage. Usually however these performing children have their own separate industry standards.

Young workers once they reach the age of 17-18 are entitled to at least £4.81/hour for under 18/Apprentice rates.

The National Living Wage as of April 2022 goes:

23 and over 21 to 22 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice
April 2022 £9.50 £9.18 £6.83 £4.81 £4.81

 

  • What are the restrictions on child employment?

Also taken from UK Laws on Child employment on gov.uk:

Restrictions on child employment

Children are not allowed to work:

  • without an employment permit issued by the education department of the local council, if this is required by local bylaws
  • in places like a factory or industrial site
  • during school hours
  • before 7am or after 7pm
  • for more than one hour before school (unless local bylaws allow it)
  • for more than 4 hours without taking a break of at least 1 hour
  • in any work that may be harmful to their health, well-being or education
  • without having a 2-week break from any work during the school holidays in each calendar year

There are also special rules which only apply during term times and school holiday times.

Term time rules

During term time children can only work a maximum of 12 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 2 hours on school days and Sundays
  • a maximum of 5 hours on Saturdays for 13 to 14-year-olds, or 8 hours for 15 to 16-year-olds

School holiday rules

During school holidays 13 to 14-year-olds are only allowed to work a maximum of 25 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 5 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

During school holidays 15 to 16-year-olds can only work a maximum of 35 hours a week. This includes:

  • a maximum of 8 hours on weekdays and Saturdays
  • a maximum of 2 hours on Sunday

Local rules on the types of work children can do

Local bylaws list the jobs that children cannot do. If a job is on this list, a child under the minimum school leaving age cannot do this work.

Local bylaws may also have other restrictions on working hours, conditions of work and the type of employment.

  • When can a teenager enter into contracts?

A teenager can only enter into contracts by age 18 or when they are considered an adult. This is important because, before this age, they cannot make binding agreements for valuable properties and income such as agreeing to a contract and salary, taking out a bank loan, owning land or buying a house or flat, applying for mortgages, or purchasing motorbikes and automobiles.

Contracts before 18 are signed on their behalf by their legal guardian or representative.

By this age they become entitled to any property that was held in trust for them and can become the executor or administrator of a deceased person’s estate.

Minors and Education

  • When can a child decide to just stop going to school?

The age at which a child may stop going to school is the same age at which they may also attempt to enter into full-time employment – age 16. Prior to this, they have to go to school and their guardians are responsible so that their children can achieve a full-time education.

  • Can a parent be punished if their child is truant?

Yes, because by law they are obliged to make sure their children receive an education. Head teachers may now issue penalty notices of up to £100 to parents who fail to take responsibility for their child’s regular school attendance.

Children’s Services (the CS) usually offer support and help, usually from an Educational Social Worker, to parents in order to stop the child from truanting. However, excessive truanting or neglect of their educational responsibilities may cause the parent of a truanting child and the school or CS to enter into a Parenting Contract. The parent agrees to make sure the child arrives at school on time and goes to be at a set time as well. If all else fails at getting children to attend school, parents could be fined up to £2,500 or imprisoned for up to three months for failing to ensure that their child attends school regularly.

  • What happens if the child is excluded or suspended from school?

It is not lawful for a school to exclude a child indefinitely. It must be either for a specified time or permanently. Parents take responsibility for their child during this period of exclusion. For the first 5 days of exclusion, they are required that their child is not in a public place for the first 5 days of exclusion – a suspension is not meant to be a vacation from school. Starting from the 6th day of exclusion, Local Authority will make arrangements for the child to receive suitable education during this period away from formal schooling.

A child cannot be excluded for more than a total of 45 days a school year. Only the Head may exclude a child, and it must not be for a minor offense such as not wearing a uniform correctly, not doing homework, or truancy.

Permanent exclusion is generally only done as a last resort if all other strategies have failed. Serious offenses such as dangerous antisocial behavior, supplying illegal drugs, or carrying a weapon to school are some offenses that could merit permanent exclusion.

Minors and the Home Situation

  • Can a parent stop a child from leaving home?

A parent may not stop a child from leaving home by locking them or physically restraining them. However, as parents have legal responsibility for the child until they reach the age of 16 (or the age of discretion) they can have the court take action to bring their child back of they run away. Past this age, it is less likely for the court to force the child back home unless their situation away from their parents may be shown to put them in danger.

  • If the child doesn’t feel safe at home, what can they do?

If the child doesn’t want to go home because they feel in danger, child services can help. If the child is aged 16, local authority can help find them a place to stay to keep them from being legally homeless.

  • When is the youngest a child can marry?

From the implementation of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, children or youths cannot under any conditions be compelled to enter into anything that could cause a marriage before the age of 18. This includes civil partnerships or anything binding like a contract. This also included non-legally binding ceremonies of marriage in a community or ceremonial settings.

Starting 26 February 2023, it will not be possible for anyone under the age of 18 to marry or enter a civil partnership even with parental consent.