Must-Ask Questions Before Your Child Becomes an Actor

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Before parents agree to purse a career for their child as a performer or entertainer, it is crucial for them to answer the following questions. Be mindful that formulating answers may take weeks or months. If that occurs, so be it. Take as much time as you and your family need.

1. Is your child’s talent extraordinary? If you do not have sufficient knowledge of what it takes for a child to succeed professionally, use your instincts as a starting point, then consider the opinions of others with proven experience like coaches and teachers.

2. Does your child seek out and enjoy performing? Your child’s comfort level is crucial. She must want to be there. Otherwise, your child will be uncomfortable, and it will be a colossal waste of time for everybody. Make sure the dream belongs to your child (and not you).

3. How much rejection will you permit your son to experience before you open the escape hatch in pursuit of a different avenue for fun? Kids who pursue professional performing careers usually get rejected much more often than they get accepted. Can your child handle even a small dose?

4. How much time will it take to pursue opportunities for your child? Consider not only lost time away from your established career/job, but also time away from other family members who need you and your time.

Consult with veteran parents who made the voyage before you along with seasoned professionals is a key step. You should also assess your family’s ability to afford the pursuit that way, calculating just how much it will cost in time and money.

5. Have you developed a plan for how your child’s career expenses will be paid? Understand that even though a child may be working, state laws obligate parents to continue supporting her. The stickier the issue, the more determined parents must be in a fair resolution. How sticky? Consider this common issue: Will it be my working child who will be paying for an onset guardian and math tutor, or me?

6. Have you made a plan for the money your child can bring into the family? Prepare to account for all the money your child earns, and include the filing of tax returns and payment of taxes on her behalf.

There is no shame in reaching out for professional help if accounting is not a skill of yours. Too many working children and their families have suffered from weak math skills and poor planning.

7. Is there a Coogan Law or child performer law in the state where you live that offers protection for your child? If the answer is yes, you should understand what it says and follow it. If not, set aside as much as you can.

Coogan-type laws and other state child performer laws may require parents to set aside a portion of their child’s earnings. (The child generally receives the funds on or after he turns 18.) States like California require that 15 percent of a child’s gross earnings be placed into a particular account, while other states like New York offer flexibility for more. Both types may offer a court contract approval process, with certain states requiring that a judge approve your child’s contract.

Note: Courts in states like Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, and New York establish the set aside amount depending on the petitioned circumstances and its laws.

8. Do you understand which state’s work permit or waiver requirements apply to your daughter’s performance or participation and how to get one? Some states are far more regulated than others.

9. Is union membership required for your son? If so, becoming knowledgeable about the pros and cons of union membership is extremely valuable and necessary.

10. Finally, have you identified specialized professionals such as entertainment attorneys and tax professionals? Take the time to research and interview experienced pros that are the right fit for your child and family before imposed deadlines.

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Sally Gaglini is an entertainment lawyer and family law practitioner. For more than 25 years, she has guided and counseled young performers and their families, helping them and production companies tackle complex legal issues as children pursue careers as musicians, songwriters, actors, models, and other artists. She is the award-winning author of “Young Performers at Work: Child Star Survival Guide.” For more information, visit,, and Gaglini’s Facebook page.

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