Schedule a Consultation

Iowa law: Parental and Legal Guardian Liability for a Minor's Conduct

Updated on
March 23, 2021
Article written by
Eugene Nassif

Parental Responsibility Laws in Iowa

Parents and legal guardians could face potential liability for a minor’s conduct in Iowa.

In this article we will discuss questions a reader may have about the liability for a minor in Iowa, including:

  • What children qualify under Iowa law?
  • What is the age range for children to qualify under this law?
  • What actions can expose a parent or guardian to liability for a minor?
  • Limitations of liability for parents under Iowa law
  • Liability to business entities
  • How to bring this lawsuit under Iowa law

Generally, a parental responsibility law makes parents or guardians liable for certain conduct caused by their minor children. Iowa’s parental responsibility law is codified in Iowa Code section 613.16. The following article will provide an overview of this law.

What children qualify under Iowa law?

Any minor children that you are the guardian or parent of are covered under Iowa law. However, if a parent does not have custodial rights over a minor child, the parent cannot be held liable for the minor’s actions under Iowa Code section 613.16.

What is the age range for children to qualify under this law?

Parental responsibility laws hold parents and guardians liable for certain actions by minor children. Iowa sets the age of majority at 18 years old. Furthermore, any child under the age of 18 is covered by the law.  

What actions can expose a parent or guardian to liability for a minor?

In Iowa, parents of an unemancipated minor are liable for any property damage or bodily injuries that results from a minor’s “unlawful acts.”

Iowa requires a minor’s actions to be unlawful before a parent will be financially liable. For example, a parent could be liable for the costs when a minor commits a crime like vandalism or assault. It is important to note here that, if the act itself is not illegal, Iowa code 613.16 cannot be used to hold the parent liable.

Limitations of liability for parents under Iowa law

Iowa Code section 613.16 holds parents and guardians responsible for the actual damages caused by their child’s unlawful actions. This covers the out-of-pocket losses such as property repair or medical bills. Under Iowa law, parents and guardians cannot be held liable for non-economic damages like pain and suffering.  

Additionally, Iowa Code 613.16 has the following limitations to the amount a claimant can recover from a parent or guardian:

  • $2000 for any single act; and
  • $5,000 to the same claimant for multiple acts.

Liability to business entities

Iowa Code section 613.16 specified that a parent or guardian’s liability is not limited to individuals. A parent could also be liable to a business. For example, should a minor vandalize a business’s building, the parent or guardian could be liable for the damage done to the building.

How to bring this lawsuit under Iowa law

If a claimant wants to file suit under this law, the proper defendants to bring are the parent/guardian as well as the minor child. There is no need to appoint guardian ad litem for the minor if the parents of the minor file an answer to the complaint.

Iowa law: Parental and Legal Guardian Liability for a Minor's Conduct
Author

Eugene Nassif

Eugene Nassif is an associate attorney in Des Moines, Iowa. His primary focus is in business and civil litigation matters.

What to Expect From a Consultation

The purpose of a free consultation is to determine whether our firm is a good fit for your legal needs. Although we often discuss expected results and costs, our attorneys do not give legal advice unless and until you choose to retain us. Although most consultations are complimentary, some may carry a charge depending on the type of matter and meeting location.


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

Open Hours

Mon - Fri

9am - 7pm

By Appointment

Mon - Fri

after 7pm

Saturday

11 am - 3pm

Sunday

11 am - 2 pm


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

Open Hours

Mon - Fri

9am - 7pm

Saturday

11 am - 3pm

Sunday

11 am - 2 pm


9 am - 5 pm M - F
After 5 pm by Appt
11 am - 3pm Sat by Appt
11 am - 2 pm Sun by Appt

O'Flaherty Law is happy to meet with you by phone, Zoom Call, or in person at any of our office locations in:

Our attorneys have experience in:

Contact us for a Free Consultation

Who We are

We are your community law firm. Our Iowa & Illinois Attorneys are committed to providing exceptional client service in a cost-effective manner in the areas of Family Law, Probate, Estate Planning, Civil Litigation, Guardianship, Criminal Defense, Corporate & Contract Law, Bankruptcy and Real Estate.
Disclaimer: Our articles and comment responses do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.

Please contact us to schedule a consultation specific to your legal situation.