Turning 18 is a significant highlight as your child steps into his or her adulthood. The 18th birthday milestone carries a lot of great privileges as well as serious legal implications; When your child turns 18, they will become an adult in the eyes of the law. Your child will gain all the rights and responsibilities of an adult, except for the legal consumption of alcohol. Once 18, your child will have the right to be independent from your control as parents and you no longer have to support them. A big difference in your child turning 18 is that your child will no longer be entitled to the protection of the juvenile court system. At age 18, your child will be charged as an adult for even minor offenses and as parents you are no longer required to be with them. Often, parents do not know their child has been charged and are left out of the decision-making process. Once your child turns 18, or goes away for college, talk to your kids about their legal rights and what to do if they need legal help.

The milestone also carries severe legal implications for you as parents as well. Unless your child formally agrees, certain information will be withheld from you. Examples are banking and credit information, grades, and medical records. Your access to medical information regarding your now adult child will be limited by HIPAA privacy rules, regardless if your child is still on your family’s medical insurance policy. Also, if your now adult child has his or her own bank account and your name is not on the account, you will no longer be able to access the account or bank information, even in emergencies. Your child won’t need your consent or formal driver’s training to obtain their driver’s license. They will be personally responsible for their own driving tickets and accidents, as well as the mandatory obligation to have proof of auto insurance.

Your child can get married, decide their own medical treatment, make a will, vote in government elections, sue and/or be sued, and enter into their own contracts such as getting a loan, buying a car, or renting an apartment. If entering into an apartment contract, remind your son or daughter it is a good idea to purchase renter’s insurance to cover their possessions and any liability. Let your child know that if they do not pay their rent on time, the landlord can only give them three days’ notice before seeking a court to evict them. Also, share with them that landlords must provide “fit and habitable” living conditions and to reach out to a local building inspector if the landlord allows conditions to become so bad they cannot live in the apartment. Tell your kids that although written contracts protect against dishonesty and poor memory, they should be careful to review the entire contract because the language may be confusing and favor the other party. Remind your child not to sign a contract until they are sure they understand it. If they do not keep their part of the bargain, they can get sued. Your son or daughter can also get sued for not paying their credit card charges. Make sure they understand the interest rates, payment amount, due dates, and service charges before signing loan papers. Turning 18 means your child is also responsible for serving on a jury if called, paying taxes on any earnings, facing any lawsuits or criminal charges as an adult, and if you are male, registering for the military draft.

While your child is at college, it is important to remind them of possible legal consequences for their behavior. Your child will be considered “disturbing the peace” if engaged in rowdy behavior, fighting, playing loud music, or creating unreasonably loud noise. Also keep in mind, hazing is any method of initiation into a student organization which is likely to cause physical harm or personal degradation. It is a crime punishable up to a $5,000 fine and jail time. Remind them that even on a college campus where other underaged adults might be doing it, it is a crime to alter any driver’s license or use someone else’s in any way for identification, including buying alcohol or trying to enter a bar. If your child is convicted of any drug or alcohol related offense and is under 21 years of age, his or her license can be suspended for one year, in addition to any penalty imposed for the conviction.

In summary, keep the lines of communication open with your children. Even though your child is now legally an “adult”, he or she still might need guidance from time to time. If you have any questions, contact us today at 614-429-1053!