Parens Patriae Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Parens Patriae, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Parens Patriae?

It is a doctrine that’s empowers the government/state to be the guardian to the ones who are unable to protect themselves or look after themselves legally. It may be the case of child custody in cases of divorces for the well being of the child till he/she is of 18 years of age, is decided by the court. It is a latin word meaning “Parent of the country”

History and Meaning of Parens Patriae

Parens Patriae is a Latin term that translates to "parent of the country." It is a doctrine that gives the government or state the authority to take care of individuals who are unable to take care of themselves or protect their legal rights. Initially developed in England during the 13th century as a way for the King to protect the citizens, the doctrine granted him ultimate authority in both civil and criminal cases. It later became a foundation for the American legal system with the amendment made in 1893 to the District of Columbia Code, stating that "the District of Columbia shall be construed to be a municipal corporation and body politic, and as such we authorized to sue and be sued, complain and defend, in all courts of law and equity".

Examples of Parens Patriae

  1. The state is authorized to intervene on behalf of the minor in cases of parental abuse or neglect.
  2. In juvenile delinquency cases where the parents or legal guardians are unable to provide adequate care, the state assumes the role of "parent of the country" to ensure that the child's welfare is protected.
  3. If a consumer suffers damages due to price-fixing or anti-competitive practices, the state can sue on behalf of the affected consumer class.

Legal Terms Similar to Parens Patriae

  1. Guardianship - a legal status where an individual has been given the power and responsibility to care for someone else.
  2. Conservatorship - a legal status where an individual is appointed to manage the affairs of an incapacitated person.
  3. Trustee - a legal position held by an individual or organization responsible for managing and preserving assets for the benefit of others.