Kids and the Law


Now then, the two laws which impinge most on the working child go under the title “California Civil Code 197” (written in 1872) and Civil Code Section 5118. Remember 95% of all the work done by children is done without Court approved contracts, and that 80% of all the work in the Entertainment Business is in California. The Court may modify contracts and applicable laws (as in, what do you agree to) but in the main, the Cal. Civil Code is the law…and is mimicked throughout America…and like most Parent/Child Law, based on English Common Law which has a rich history coming down from the Magna Carta (1215AD @ Runnymeade, England).
Cal. Civil Code #197 states: “The mother of an unmarried minor child is entitled to its custody, services and earnings. The father of the child, if presumed to be the father under subdivision (a) of Section 7004, is equally entitled to the custody, services, and earnings of the unmarried minor.”
There is more to the section but it deals with abandonment and/or death of one or both parents.
Cal Code Section 5118 provides: “The earnings and accumulations of a spouse and minor children living with, or in the custody of, the spouse, while separate and apart from the other spouse, are the separate property of the spouse.”
Simply put, kids ‘belong’ to their parents. They are chattel. In our agrarian past this was perfectly understood…everyone contributed to the common weal…but in the modern world with kids working independently outside the home, this (call it what it is) *SLAVERY* is anathema to anyone who looks closely.
Let me remind everyone, the vaunted “Coogan Law” exists only in the State of California (although it is mimicked to a lesser degree in New York and New Jersey) and then comes into play ONLY when the contracts…usually longer than one year…are called into Court for approval. This 60 year old Law was framed and passed after the disgusting spectacle of Jackie Coogan’s parents having gone through 4 million dollars by the time Jackie arrived at his majority in 1934. Incidentally, Coogan’s father was killed in a traffic accident in 1936 and Jackie went to his grave believing his Dad salted the money away somewhere that nobody knows about. Jackie Coogan’s father was killed while driving a Pierce Arrow … the Rolls Royce of its time.
In FEDERAL LAW we have a real problem. Back in the 30’s the Congress in its infinite wisdom…”Specifically exempted minors working the Entertainment Business from all provisions of the Child Labor Laws.”
That one is still on the books, folks. Don’t kid yourselves, the deck is stacked against the child.
The Government is in the habit of proscribing the affairs of children, forever making rules about the length of time a kid might work (ignored more often than not), their various inoculations, the time that must be spent in school, when they can drive, when they can vote, etc. But somehow no one anywhere ever gets around to proscribing what a parent can take from a child…not just money, but their very childhood. Ask any potential Olympic athlete how many hours they put in in their quest for gold and the answer is 80 hours a week. That’s what it takes. This society has routinely accepted this abuse…and never mind that book after book has been written (Kathy Rigby, Tai Babalonia, Greg Louganis for example) and nothing ever gets done.
And those are the stars we see. Think of all the tens of thousands upon whose shoulders these putative successes stand!
My friends, we started “A Minor Consideration” to address these matters, and we need everyone’s support. If you don’t think you’re involved go out to any Little League field on a Saturday and check out the ambitious parents and/or coaches. Go see a Friday night high school football game. I’ll wager you, too, will get sick to your stomach.