A sixteen-year-old female may decide to give birth and become a mother, but she cannot independently obtain an abortion or marry the father of her child. A young mother may relinquish rights to her child without judicial intervention, but that same teenager may not decide independently with which parent she wishes to live. The passage of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment highlighted inconsistencies in the law that allowed eighteen-year-olds to fight for their country but deprived those same individuals of the right to vote for the politicians who sent them to war. Although this debate changed the way many individuals feel, society has failed to fully integrate young people into the legal and social worlds currently populated only by adults. Similar inconsistencies still remain regarding minors’ abilities to choose with whom they wish to live.
The United States Supreme Court decided Meyer v. Nebraska in 1923 and established the fundamental rights to marry, to establish a home, and to raise children. By 1944, the Supreme Court limited these rights for minors in Prince v. Massachusetts. Since the Prince decision, a patchwork of federal and state laws has impacted a minor’s right to determine his or her living situation. The time has come to make sense of the patchwork and provide consistent results for minors in the family-law system. . .