Your Child is Turning 18 Years Old | What Legal Rights Issues Do You Need to Know?

An 18 Year Old is a Legal Adult in Most of the United States

Filling out college forms onlineIn many parts of the world, and most of the United States, when your child turns 18, they will become a legal adult, which means that they will now have rights and privileges that they did not have before. It is important to understand what both you and your 18 year old child are now responsible for, when they become 18.

In the United States, individual states create most of the laws pertaining to age of majority. This is when a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the legal system. Once a person becomes a legal adult, they are no longer considered a minor (even if you think they should be).

Once a child has crossed the legal threshold into adulthood, they are responsible for control over themselves, their actions and decisions. They are no longer under the legal control of their parents or guardians. This is based on chronological age, not necessarily whether they are actually a physically, mentally or emotionally mature adult.

What are Some of the Legal Consequences of Turning 18?

While your 18 year old may still seem like a child to you, their actions after they turn 18 will have the legal consequences of an adult. Here are some of the legal issues that affect most 18 year olds:

  • Driving: Many states have laws restricting drivers under the age of 18 from driving 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These restrictions are removed at age 18.
  • Jury Duty, and Voting: Since an 18 year old is now a legal adult, they can be called for jury duty, and have the right to vote.
  • Taxes: Just like the rest of us, 18 year olds are required to turn in their taxes on time.
  • Ownership: An 18 year old can’t rent a car, you need to be 21 for that, but he can buy one. He can also buy and sell real estate and stock, inherit property, enter into binding contracts, and get sued.
  • Jail: Criminal justice systems can no longer turn a blind eye toward pranks and misadventures that they did when your child was a minor. 18 year olds can go to jail.
  • Statutory Rape: Statutory rape laws are very different from state to state. You should make sure that your 18 year old is aware of the laws in their state, because dating their high school girlfriend may now be against the law.

When Your Child Turns 18, You No Longer Have Rights to Their Information

Parents who have raised a child since infancy, are used to having all the information relating to their child’s health, medical issues, financial issues, academics, and privacy. After all, you have been the ones who have taken care of these issues since their birth or adoption. However, once your child turns 18, you must have their permission to talk to a doctor for them, or access any of these records. This can be an issue when they go to college, or if they get in any serious health situation. It is best to check your state’s laws and the laws of the state where your child goes to college regarding these issues to prepare in the event that such a situation could occur.

Tough Decisions Need to Be Made

In order to help care for your 18 year old child, you can have them give you a power of attorney over their care, or parts of their care. However, the question remains whether you want to allow your child to become a mature, responsible adult with your guidance, or not. You know your child best, and must make tough decisions based on their maturity, and capabilities as to whether they are ready to become completely responsible for themselves.

In most cases, it is better to have your child learn to consult you for advice on how to handle their new responsibilities like credit card bills, medical visits, and college decisions. The hardest thing for some parents is letting go of the control, and allowing their children to become separate adults.

Being Prepared and Letting Go

Overnight, you have turned from a parent and legal guardian to a parent advisor.  This is something that no one can prepare for completely, but can be planned for.

With some foresight, and research into the legal issues in your part of the world, you and your adult child can work together to finish the growing up process, and help your 18 year old child become the adult that they were meant to be.


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