A Guide to Parental Waiver Forms

parental waivers

Does your business work with children or young adults? If so, you may have already done some research on parental consent forms, and how they can be used by businesses in your industry.

Today’s parents sign dozens of these forms for school-aged children to release them to participate in class projects, field trips, and other physical activities. For sports leagues, camps, and other businesses that work with children, these parental consent waivers are common.

Most of the time, a child who does not have a signed release form from their parent or guardian is not eligible to participate in the activity. Not wanting their child to be left out, many parents sign the forms quickly, without a full understanding of their legality.

As a business or organization that runs activities with kids, you have likely done some research and found the legality of parental waiver forms can be confusing. This post helps break down some of the legal nuances of these documents, and why you should err on the side of using them rather than not.

Are Parental Waivers Legal?

In many jurisdictions within the United States, parental waivers are not legal. The matter has been tried before several state supreme courts, and many have determined that parents cannot be allowed to waive their child’s legal rights. Stories surrounding these waivers being struck down in a court of law have become popular fodder for the nightly news. Recently, a case in Kentucky ended with a court deciding that “a damage waiver signed by a parent doesn’t protect companies from liability if children get hurt.”

Despite that fact, businesses all over North America continue to use them, because there is a possibility that the law will change in the future. Using these waivers has also been shown to help deter litigation, and can even provide evidence to help build an assumption of risk defense in the event that a parent or guardian decides to sue your business.

Since the law is different in each jurisdiction, it’s important to be well-versed on local and state laws that govern the use of these waivers.

Laws in Different States and Countries

In the USA, state supreme courts are divided in their opinion of parental waiver forms, which also includes non-custodial parental waivers. In 17 states, parental waivers signed on behalf of minors have continually been rejected. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Twelve states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have sometimes (but not always) sided with the organizations that use parental waiver forms.

In the remaining 21 states and in Canada, it is difficult to predict how the courts will rule. There has been no authoritative decision made, and consequently, there is no way to predict how courts will adjudicate these matters in the future.

Many businesses in Australia and the United Kingdom continue to use parental waivers, but lawyers in Australia have noted that it is “rare for a contract excluding liability for negligence to be enforced against a child”. 

What Needs to be Included in a Waiver for Young Participants?

Despite the fact that there is no authoritative legal position on parental waivers in many states and countries, there have been some limitations imposed that can increase the likelihood of a waiver being accepted by a court of law. These should be studied carefully, to ensure your parental waiver form is as effective as possible.

Clear Language

Like many liability waivers, the language on parental waiver forms must be clear, straightforward, and written in plain English. The waiver should be clearly titled and should include all specific language necessary in your jurisdiction to ensure its enforceability.

Clear Explanation of Risk

The risks that the minor child may face should be clearly noted in the waiver. Many businesses include language that specifies ‘known and unknown risks’ to ensure that they are protected from all possible consequences of a child’s participation in their activity.

Assumption of Risk

In recent years, businesses that operate in states where parental waiver forms have been deemed unenforceable have moved to a different type of form. These may be called a participation agreement by some organizations.

This form should be set up in a similar way to a traditional parental waiver form, with a description of the activity and the inherent risks and injuries that may occur. The form should clearly state the activity’s rules, as well as a disclaimer that the organization cannot guarantee the participant’s safety.  

Space for Parent’s Signature

Almost unanimously, states have ruled that waivers signed by minor children themselves are absolutely non-binding. Parental waivers must be signed by a parent or guardian if they are to be given full legal consideration.   

Operating a business that offers activities for young people can be challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Having the right waiver in place can make you feel more secure, and offers the ability to build your own business and offer your community a fun and safe activity without the fear of legal repercussions.

Setting up Dependents in the WaiverForever Form Builder

If you’ve decided to move ahead with a parental waiver form or custodial parent waiver for your organization, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective waiver service than WaiverForever

Our easy app allows you to build a custom waiver that suits the needs of your business. In addition to personalizing every aspect of your parental waiver form, you can also set up dependents in the WaiverForever form builder, making it easy to look up a form by either the child or their parent’s name. 
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