parens patriae

Primary tabs

Parens patriae is Latin for "parent of the country or homeland." Under parens patriae, a state or court has a paternal and protective role over its citizens or others subject to its jurisdiction.

The doctrine of parens patriae is a doctrine under which a state has third-party standing to bring a lawsuit on behalf of a citizen when the suit implicates a state’s quasi-sovereign interests for the well-being of its citizens. 

The parens patriae doctrine is also the doctrine in which all orphans, dependent children, and persons deemed incompetent are within the special protection, and under the control of the state.

[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]