Thank you to the State Bar of


which produced the “Kids and the Law” of which this is an extract. For the entire booklet go to: Children’s law In a 2006 Californiasurvey, nearly one in two 9th graders reported they had consumed at least one alcoholic drink at some point. Forty percent of the 11th  graders surveyed admitted drinking enough alcohol to become “drunk or sick.” And in a national survey, one in four high school students said they were under age 13 when they drank alcohol for the first time.

The age of majority is a term used by lawyers to describe the time in life after which a person is legally no longer considered a child. In essence, it is an arbitrary time when a child becomes an adult in the eyes of the law. Until fairly recently, the age of majority was set at 21 in most states. Following the ratification of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving 18-year-olds the

right to vote in federal elections, most states, including California , lowered their age of majority to 18. (FC § 6502) At the age of majority, teenagers acquire the right to:

●Enter into binding contracts.

●Buy or sell property, including real estate and stock.

●Marry without the written consent of a parent or guardian and a judge.

●Sue or be sued in their own names.

●Compromise, settle or arbitrate a claim.

●Make or revoke a will.

●Inherit property outright.

●Vote in national, state and local elections.

●Consent to all types of medical treatment.

●Join the military without parental consent.


This does not mean that once your child reaches the age of majority, he or she gains all of the rights and privileges available to adults. Some rights and responsibilities may come at an earlier age, while others come later. For example, California resident may be issued a provisional driver’s license at age 16 (see Cars, Kids and Traffic Laws), but may not purchase alcoholic beverages until age 21. What the age of majority has really come to mean is that point when an individual is treated as an adult for most purposes.

Attaining the age of majority, however, also brings with it some losses. These losses generally correlate with the rights that children are given for their own protection—for example, the right to their parents’ support, care and shelter (see Parents’ Rights and Responsibilities), their right to treatment within the juvenile court system (see Juvenile Court), and their protection against exploitation and harmful or dangerous conditions of employment under child labor laws (see Work, Work Permits and Taxes).

Note: An exception to the rule that your child must wait until age 18 to acquire the rights and obligations of an adult would apply if he or she were emancipated. (To understand how this might occur, as well as its legal consequences, see Emancipation.)

 This information is provided for educational purposes only. For more information about divorce and family law in Los Angeles  please visit www.la-familylaw.com