Face it: kids of all ages are always caught looking at something down the road, a time when things will be better than being just a kid. When we were just little squirts, it was that magical right into puberty, by reaching that wily old age of 13. There we would become teens. Well respected, mature, with deeper voices, and the beginnings of five-o’clock shadows. Dating, makeup, and school dances.
Then it was 16. Time to drive a car instead of driving mom and dad crazy. Only two years before reaching that magical age of 18, where parents would no longer, legally at least, be able to hold us back from all the wonderful unknown realities the world had to offer. But did any of us, either for our own sakes, or for our children’s, ever really consider what 18 years of age, or the age of majority, really stood for?
In California, Family Code § 6502 covers the age of majority, which is a time when those who are no longer kids can legally enter into binding contracts, and buy or sell property, which includes real estate and stocks. They can also be sued or sue in their own names, and marry without the written consent of a parent, guardian or a judge. At eighteen, these now legal adults may join the military without parental consent, and give their own legal consent to all types of medical treatment.
They can vote in local, state, and national elections, inherit property, make or revoke wills, and compromise, settle, and arbitrate their own claims. But let there be no mistake about it, by reaching the age of legal adulthood, these former minors do not gain all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities available to all adults.
Some come earlier, while others show up later. For instance, a 16-year-old California resident can obtain a provisional driver’s license, while they cannot purchase alcohol until the age of 21. The reality is that what turning 18 truly means is that the child is no longer treated as a child, legally, for most purposes.
Reaching the age of majority can also add up to losses for young Timmy or Cindy. For example, these losses could correlate with the rights that children are given for their own protection, like the right to their parents’ support, care and shelter, their right to treatment within the juvenile court system, and their protection against exploitation and harmful or dangerous employment conditions.
There is also another exception to the rule that your child must wait until the age of 18 before he or she can acquire the rights and obligations of an adult. And that is if they were emancipated. This is what we will talk about next.