Legal Ages

38. Legal Ages

The law only recognizes as legal the acts of persons who possess the capacity to form the proper intent to perform the particular acts. Two aspects of capacity are recognized: the mental capacity to form the intent to commit an act, and maturity, or the roughly objective measure of the ability to form a legal intent. It is maintained that when a child reaches a certain age his or her capacity to form the proper intent matures. At this point a child can be held accountable for his or her actions.

The age at which every person is considered an adult is known as the age of majority and is usually 18 years old. In addition, some states allow minors who are living apart from their parents and supporting themselves to be emancipated. This means that the minor will be treated as an adult for legal purposes. The minimum age for majority or emancipation is sometimes set out in statutes, but is frequently determined by the common law.

The variation of age limits for different activities, such as marrying, voting, or consuming alcohol, illustrates the values a society places on certain types of activities and how a society values individual responsibility and accountability. For instance, when a minor intentionally injures another or damages property, he or she may be held liable for the act at age fourteen, and even earlier, in some instances, in certain courts. But he or she may not be allowed to drink or vote until age 21 or 18.

The limitations on a minors ability to contract, however, are established to protect innocent third parties and ignorant or immature first parties. If a minor makes a foolish business decision out of immaturity or ignorance, the contract may be voided on the basis of a lack of capacity to contract.

Table 38: Legal Ages
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
ALABAMA19 (§26-1-1)18 (§26-13-1)Minor 15 or more at nearest birthday may contract for life, health, accident, annuity insurance; however, not bound by any unperformed agreement to pay premium (§27-14-5)May sue through personal representative, next friend, or guardian ad litem; if 14 or over has 30 days to choose guardian ad litem (ARCP), Rule 17 (c), (d)14 (§22-8-4)
ALASKA18 (§25.20.010)16 (§09.55.590)May receive and give full discharge and acquittance for insurance payments up to $3000 if 16 or over (§21.42.290)By representative, guardian ad litem, or next friend (CR 17(c))If living apart from parents or if parent of child, minor may give own consent (§25.20.025)
ARIZONA18 (§1-215)Not specifiedGoverned by common law (§47-1103); at 16 or over may contract for educational loans (§44-140.01); May make contracts if veteran or married (§44-131)By guardian or special administrator, guardian ad litem, next friend (§A.R.S.R. Civ. Pro. 17(g))If homeless, marries or emancipated (§44-132 et seq.)
ARKANSAS18 (§9-25-101)16 (§9-26-104)Rescission by infant 18 or over permitted only upon full restitution; promise made after full age to pay debt contracted during infancy must be in writing (§§9-26-101; 4-59-101)Next friend or guardian (§16-61-103, 104)Any minor who is married, emancipated, incarcerated, or sufficiently intelligent to understand consequences of consent (§20-9-602)
CALIFORNIA18 (Fam. §6500)14 (Fam. §7120), or if married or in military (Fam. §7002)Yes (Fam. §6700) except he cannot give a delegation of power, made a contract relating to real property or personal property not in immediate possession or control of the minor (Fam. §6701)Guardian (Fam. §6601)Minor may consent if 15 years or older, living apart from parents, and managing own finances (§6922)
COLORADO18 (§13-22-101)Occurs upon attainment of majority; Koltay v. Koltay 667 P.2d 1374 (Colo. 1983)18 (§13-22-101(1)(a))18 (§13-22-101(1)(c)); by guardian or representative (Col. R. Civ. Pro. 17(c))18 (§13-22-101(1)(d)), or 15 if living apart from parents and paying own expenses (§13-22-103(1))
CONNECTICUT18; (§1-1d)16 (§46b-150)Common law18 or upon emancipation (§46b-150d)18 or upon emancipation (§46b-150d)
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
DELAWARE18 (1 §701)Not specified18 (6 §2705)18 (10 §3923)Not specified
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA18 (§46-101)Not specifiedCommon law; cannot be charged unless promise made in writing after age of majority (§28-3505)By representative (§12-302)If connected to pregnancy, substance abuse, psychological disturbance, or sexually transmitted disease (22 DCMR §600.7)
FLORIDA18 (§743.07)If legal marriage occurs (§743.01); upon petition if 16 or older (§743.015)May contract for higher education financing if 16 or over (§743.05); may contract generally if married (§743.01)By next friend or court appointed guardian (RCP §1.210(b))If emergency (§743.064)
GEORGIA18 (§39-1-1)Not specifiedGenerally voidable; however, if benefits continue after age of majority, contract is valid (§13-3-20)Through guardian or guardian ad litem (§29-4-7); suit started by infant alone not void but guardian must be appointed before verdict (§9-2-28)18 for treatment in general (§31-9-2); if treatment is for VD, minor may consent; female minor has valid consent for treatment in connection with pregnancy
HAWAII18 (§577-1)Legal marriage (§577-25)Disaffirmance must be made within reasonable time after reaching age of majority (1 Haw. 421)Guardian ad litem, next friend (§551-2)For counseling services for alcohol or drug abuse (§577-26); if for pregnancy, venereal disease or family planning services (§577A-2)
IDAHO18 (§32-101)Marriage (§32-101)Cannot disaffirm otherwise valid contract to purchase necessities (§32-103, et seq.); if 15 or over, may enter into insurance contract (§41-1807)Through guardian, conservator, or like fiduciary, or infant may sue through guardian ad litem or next friend appointed by court (IRCP, Rule 17(c))Age 14; treatment of infectious, contagious, communicable diseases (§39-3801)
ILLINOIS18, common lawMinors between 16 and 18 may apply if no parental objection (§§750 ILCS 30/1, et seq.)Voidable unless for necessities; executing contract binding only if ratified after 18; executed contract binding unless disaffirmed within reasonable time after age 18; common lawGuardian ad litem must be appointed or can sue within 2 years of turning 18 (§735 ILCS 5/13-211)Consent by minor if married, parent, or victim of sexual assault (410 ILCS 210/1, et seq.)
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
INDIANA18; common lawNot specifiedIf under 18, child is not able to contract except for necessities and higher education expenses (common law, §20-12-21.3-1); minors 16 or older may contract for life, accident, sickness insurance and annuities (§27-1-12-15)In own name or through next friend, guardian ad litem, or representative (Trial Proc. R. 17(c))Minors may consent if emancipated, 14 years or older and living apart from parents, married, or in military service (16-36-1-3)
IOWA18 (§599.1)Marriage (§599.1)For necessities; for other contracts, minor is bound unless disaffirmed after reasonable time of attaining majority and restoration made of money and property received (§599.2)By minors guardian or by next friend; court may substitute at its discretion (IRCP 1.210)Not specified
KANSAS18, 16 if married (§38-101)At discretion of the court (§38-109)Valid for necessities; also for other contracts unless disaffirmed in reasonable time after majority is obtained and money, property restored (§38-102); may consummate insurance contracts but must have consent of parents and cosignature of party over age 18 (§40-237)Through infants representative; if no representative, then through next friend or guardian ad litem (§60-217(c))Unmarried pregnant minor may consent to hospital, medical, and surgical care (§38-123); or any minor over 16 (§38-123b)
KENTUCKY18 (§2.015)Not specifiedValid for necessities; otherwise, common law generally governs; exception made for war veterans under §384.090 and for borrowing for educational purpose with parental consent (§287.385)May sue by guardian or next friend if unmarried (CR 17.03); if married, may sue on his or her own (CR 17.02)Minors of any age may consent to emergency care or treatment for pregnancy, drug/alcohol abuse, or venereal disease. Minors 16 or older may consent to mental health treatment. Emancipated minors may consent to any treatment (§222.441).
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
LOUISIANA18 (CC §29)Through notarial act by parent at age 15 (CC §366); Through judicial consent at age 16 (CC §385); marriage (CC §379)Contracts by minors are voidable (CC §1918 et seq.)Through tutor or parent (CCP §683)May consent without parental consent (R.S.40 §1095, et seq.)
MAINE18 (1§72(11))Not specifiedNo, unless minor or authorized person ratified it at age of 18; exceptions are necessaries or real estate to which minor has title and retains benefit; contracts of minors re higher education are valid (33 § 52)Through next friend, guardian ad litem, or parent (R. Civ. Pro. 17 (b))Minors may consent to any treatment is married, emancipated, in the military, or living apart from parents. Otherwise, minors may consent to substance abuse or mental health treatment. (22 §1502 et seq.)
MARYLAND18 (Art. 1, §24)Married minor may buy or sell property and to join in deed, mortgage, lease, notes if spouse is of age (Est. & Tr. Art. 13 § 503(a)); age 15 re insurance and cannot repudiate on basis of minority (Est. & Tr. Art. 13 § 503(c)); or if in military, can enter into real estate transactions (Est. & Tr. Art. 13 § 503 (b))If not beneficial to minor, void ab initio, not ratifiable; if beneficial to minor or uncertain as to benefit or prejudice, voidable by infant, may be ratified at age 18; ratification may be express or through acceptance of benefits; voidable contract may be disaffirmed by minor during minority or reasonable time after age 18 (COML Art. 1 § 103)By guardian, next friend, or parent (R.P. 2-202(b))If married or a parent or seeking help with drug use, alcoholism, VD, sexual assault, pregnancy, contraception, or if seeking consent would be life threatening (Health Gen. Art. 20 § 102); minor 16 or older can consent to treatment for emotional disorder (Health Gen. Art. 20 §104)
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
MASSACHUSETTS18 (Ch. 231 §85P)Not specifiedNo, except for necessaries and education; 16 or over for motor vehicle liability insurance; 15 or over for life insurance (Ch. 175 §§113K, 128, common law)By next friend, representative, or guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 17(b))If 12 or over and certified to be drug dependent, may consent to appropriate medical care (Ch. 112 §12E); minor may also consent to emergency care when: married, widowed, divorced; is a parent; is a member of armed forces; lives separately from parents and manages own financial affairs; has come into contact with dangerous public health disease; is pregnant (Ch. 112 §12F)
MICHIGAN18 (722.1(a))Through marriage, military service, or by judicial petition at age 16 (722.4 et seq.)For necessities only (common law, §600.1403)By next friend or guardian of estate; if age 14 or over, can select own (Mich. Court Rules Rule 2.201 (E))If pregnant (§333.9132); HIV or venereal disease treatment (§333.5127); substance abuse treatment (§333.6121)
MINNESOTA18 (§645.45(14))Not specifiedFor necessities only; other contracts voidable (common law)At 14 by general guardian ad litem appointed by court; otherwise by general guardian, relative, or friend, by default (RCP §17.02)Minor may consent if living apart from parents and managing own financial affairs, if married or parent, or for pregnancy, venereal disease, or substance abuse (§144.341 et seq.)
MISSISSIPPI21 (§1-3-27)By petition, no minimum age specified (§93-19-3)18 for personal property; ratification must be signed in writing (§15-3-11)18 to settle personal injury claims; married minor may file in marital matters; court appoints guardian ad litem ( §11-21-3)Not specified
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
MISSOURI18 (common law)If married, minor may convey or encumber real estate if spouse is of age (§442.040)May be ratified after 18 (§431.060); for real property, may be disaffirmed within 2 years (§442.080)By guardian, next friend, or court appointed (CR §52.02)Minor may consent if: married; treatment is for pregnancy, excluding abortion; venereal disease, drug or substance abuse
MONTANA18 (§41-1-101)Occurs upon marriage (§40-6-234) or by judicial petition after reaching age 16 (§41-1-501)Contracts may be disaffirmed within reasonable time after reaching 18, but necessities may not be disaffirmed (§41-1-301 et seq.)Through general guardian or guardian ad litem (§41-1-202)Yes, if emancipated; separated from parents and self-supporting; pregnant; has a communicable disease; or addicted to alcohol or drugs; has had a child or graduated from high school; needs emergency care (§41-1-402)
NEBRASKA19 (§43-2101)Marriage (§43-2101); common law (209 Neb. 94(1981))Common law appliesExcept as provided in Probate Code, actions by infant shall be commenced by guardian or next friend. (§25-307)Not specified
NEVADA18 (§129.010)16 by court order (§129.080)Common law; valid if emancipated (§129.130)General guardian or guardian ad litem (§12.050)If emancipated (§129.130); or if living apart from parents, married, has a child, or has a health hazard (§129.030); or under influence of drugs (§129.050); or has a sexually transmitted disease (§129.060)
NEW HAMPSHIRE18 (§21-B:1)Not specifiedCan join with spouse in release of homestead interests (§460:4)Next friend; court may appoint guardian ad litem ( §498-A:22)12 or older may consent to drug treatment (§318-B:12-a)
NEW JERSEY18 (9:17B-3)Not specified17, if minor spouse for sale of property (37:2-30); 15 for insurance contracts (17B:24 -2)By guardian or guardian ad litem (2A: 4A-39)If married or pregnant (9:17A-1.9)
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
NEW MEXICO18 (§32A-1-4(B))Through marriage, death, adoption, majority of minor (32A-21-1, et seq.)Common law appliesBy guardian, guardian ad litem, or next friend; married minor may sue in action against him/her or spouse without a guardian; (R. Civ. Pro. 1-017(c))If married or emancipated (§24-10-1)
NEW YORK18 (Dom. Rel. §2)Not specifiedMay disaffirm most contracts if disaffirmed within reasonable time after reaching majority; exceptions: (1). certain loans; (2). married infant buying home; (3). providing medical care for self/child; (4). for performing athletic or arts services if court-approved; (5). life insurance if 15 or over; (6). or if veteran or veterans spouse (Gen. Oblig. §§3-101, et seq.)Through guardian or parent, adult spouse, guardian ad litem appointed by court or by infant if over 14 (Civ. Prac. L. & R. §1201)If married, parent, pregnant, or in an emergency (Pub. He. §2504)
NORTH CAROLINA18 (48A-2)Upon marriage or becoming 18; may petition court if 16 or over (§7B-3500 et seq.)Voidable subject to making restitution at common law; if 17 or over, may enter into contract to finance higher education; may be ratified by silence after 3 years subsequent to age of majorityBy guardian, testamentary guardian, guardian ad litem (1A-1, R. 17(b)VD, pregnancy, drug abuse, or emotional disturbance; any emancipated minor may consent to medical, dental, or health treatment for himself or child (§90-21.5)
NORTH DAKOTA18 (§14-10-01)Marriage (§14-09-20)May be disaffirmed upon age of majority or within 1 year thereafter; exception contract for reasonable value of necessary support or a statutory contract; cannot make contracts re personal or real property not in immediate possession or control, otherwise may contract subject to disaffirmance (14-10-09 et seq.)May sue or be sued, but court must appoint guardian ad litem (14-10-04)Any minor may consent to emergency medical care (§14-10-17.1). Minors 14 or older may consent to treatment for venereal disease or substance abuse (§14-10-17).
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
OHIO18 (§§3109.01)Not specifiedVoidable; may be disaffirmed at infancy or within reasonable time after age of majority; exception for necessaries (common law)Through personal representative or otherwise may sue by next friend or defend by guardian ad litem; minor not represented must have court appoint guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 17(B))Not specified
OKLAHOMA18 (15§13)Through court order; upon marriage (10 §10; 10 §91,et seq.)Voidable when done within one year after age of majority; exception: contracts for necessaries and statutory obligations (15 §13, et seq.)Guardian, next friend, or representative (12§2017(c))Minors may consent if married, a parent, emancipated, or for emergencies, substance abuse, communicable diseases, or pregnancy (63 §2602)
OREGON18(§109.510)By marriage or court decree (109.520; 419B.552)Valid for necessaries and education; any others voidable upon attaining majority (common law)By conservator, guardian or guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 27(A))15 or older may consent to any treatment, 14 or older may consent to mental health or substance abuse treatment, any age may consent to venereal disease treatment (109.610 et seq.)
PENNSYLVANIA18 (23§5101)Not specifiedVoidable except for necessaries until age 18 (common law)18 or older may sue or be sued as adult; infant may be represented by guardian, guardian ad litem, next friend (23, §5101)Not specified
RHODE ISLAND18; (§15-12-1)Common law applies, Pardey v. American Ship Windlass Co. 34 A. 737 (1896)Voidable except for necessaries, Jacobs v. United Elec. Rys. Co. 125 A. 286 (1924)By next friend, representative, or guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 17(c))If married or 16 years old may consent to any treatment (§23-4.6-1)
SOUTH CAROLINA18 (§15-1-320)Not specifiedNo, except for necessaries and if contract is signed in writing promising ratification after age 18 (20-7-250, et seq.)By representative, next friend, or guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 17(c))Married minor or their spouse may consent to diagnostic, therapeutic, or post mortem (§20-7-270); or may consent if over 16 (20-7-280)
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
SOUTH DAKOTA18 (§26-1-1)Upon marriage or age of majority; by express agreement if no longer dependent for support or active military duty (25-5-19; 25-5-24)Contracts binding unless minor disaffirms as permitted; may make contract except re real property or personal property not under immediate control; may be disaffirmed if minor under 16 before age of majority or within one year afterwards; if 16 or older, can only disaffirm with restoration of consideration plus interest (26-2-1,et seq.)Through a guardian or conservator or by a guardian ad litem (15-6-17(c))Minors of any age may consent to treatment for venereal disease (§34-23-16)
TENNESSEE18 (§1-3-105(1))By judicial petition, no minimum age specified (§29-31-101 et seq.)May disaffirm within reasonable time after attaining age of majority; may also ratify expressly or by failure to disaffirm within reasonable time (common law)By representative, guardian ad litem, or next friend (R. Civ. Pro. 17.03)Minors may receive contraceptives if pregnant, parent, or married (§68-34-107)
TEXAS18 (Civ. Prac. & Rem. §129.001)If resident and 17 or 16 if living apart from guardian or parents and is self supporting or by marriage (Fam. §31.001 et seq.)Must disaffirm within reasonable time after reaching age of majority (common law)Guardian, next friend, guardian ad litem (Tex. R. Civ. P. 44)Minors may consent to any treatment if in military or 16 years old and living apart from parents. Any minors may consent to treatment for pregnancy, substance abuse, or infectious diseases (Fam. §32.003).
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
UTAH18 (§15-2-1)Marriage (15-2-1)Bound for necessaries; otherwise, contracts valid unless disaffirmed within reasonable time after reaching age of majority and restoration of consideration (15-2-2, et seq.); minor 16 or over may contract for insurance (31A-21-103)By guardian or guardian ad litem only (UT Rules of Civ. P. 17(b))Any female in connection with pregnancy or childbirth (78-14-5)
VERMONT18 (1§173)Not specifiedVoidable, subject to making restitution where possible (common law)By representative, next friend, or guardian ad litem (V.R.C.P. 17(b))Minors 12 or older may consent to treatment for venereal disease or substance abuse (18§4226).
VIRGINIA18 (§1-13.42)By judicial petition at age 16 (§16.1-331 et seq.)Voidable subject to making restitution when possible with various exceptions for necessities (common law)Next friend; defendant infant represented by guardian ad litem (§8.01-8)Minors may consent to treatment for venereal disease, pregnancy, substance abuse, or mental illness. Married minors may consent to any treatment (§54.1-2969 (E)).
WASHINGTON18 (§26.28.010, et seq.))By judicial petition at age 16 (§13.64.010, et seq.)Bound for contracts for necessities; other contracts valid unless disaffirmed within reasonable time after reaching age of majority and restitution where possible of consideration (26.28.030,et seq.)By guardian; if 14 or over may apply himself for court-appointed guardian; if under 14 application must be made to court through relative or friend (4.08.050)Not specified
WEST VIRGINIA18 (§2-2-10(aa))By marriage, if under 16; if over 16 unmarried may apply to court; must show ability to support oneself and make decisions (§49-7-27)Common law governs; ratification must be in writing and signed by charged party (§55-1-1)By next friend, or guardian; defends by guardian ad litem (§56-4-9)Not specified
StateAge of MajorityEmancipationContractsAbility to SueConsent to Medical Treatment
WISCONSIN18 (§990.01(3))By marriage unless incompetent (880.04(1))Valid only for necessaries; necessaries contracts not valid if no implied or express provision for payment exists; contract made by infant may be ratified by acts or words after reaching age of majority (common law)By guardian or guardian ad litem (803.01(3))Not specified
WYOMING18 (§14-1-101)Through marriage, military service, or at age 17 if living separate, apart from parents; parents consent to living arrangement; minor deemed capable of handling financial affairs; and income is lawfully derived (14-1-201, et seq.)Not specifiedGeneral guardian, committee, conservator; otherwise by next friend or guardian ad litem, (Wy Rule of Civil Proc. 17(c))Yes if married, military, guardian cant be located, or living apart and self-supporting or is emancipated (14-1-101)

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