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The Legal Rights & Responsibilities of Parenting an 18-Year-Old

The Legal Rights & Responsibilities of Parenting an 18-Year-Old

The Legal Rights & Responsibilities of Parenting an 18-Year-Old

As the beginning of another school year approaches, so does the surprise for parents that they no longer have the legal right to their 18-year-old’s educational records. Along with this, parents learn that they can no longer pick up the phone and make a medical appointment for their child. In fact, they no longer have total access to their child’s information as they previously enjoyed for over 18 years.

This is quite a startling revelation to the parent paying a hefty tuition bill for their uncommunicative freshman college student. However, it’s even more frightening to the parent of a developmentally disabled child.

The Benefits of Durable Power of Attorney

The simplest solution for the parent of a college-bound student is to invite the young adult to execute a durable power of attorney, which grants the parent the legal authority to make medical and financial decisions on the child’s behalf. This document does not remove the child’s ability to make his or her own decisions; it just gives permission to third-party providers, like doctors and educators, to share information with the parent.

Caring for a Developmentally Disabled Adult

Answers for the parent of a special needs child aren’t as easy. The choices are essentially to petition the court to appoint the parent as a guardian advocate for a developmentally disabled child, or, for a child with more complex issues, to seek appointment as a plenary guardian. There are different evidentiary standards to establish these mechanisms, but either choice is an involved process that does not end with appointment. Annual reports to the court which detail the adult child’s finances, social, medical, educational, and psychological well-being are required. And the guardians or guardian advocates must undergo background checks, attend at least one guardianship class, and be represented by an attorney.

Every attorney who practices this area of law has been on the receiving end of a tongue lashing from at least one irate parent demanding to know why they must now provide proof that they are suitable to continue to make decisions or to care for their child. Suffice it to say that layers of protection are in place to protect those who are at risk of being unable to let others know when they are being harmed. The court also has an obligation to screen all parents, including those of special needs children, to weed out anyone who may not have their child’s best interests in mind.

Meeting with a Lawyer: A New Coming of Age Tradition

For the parents of an 18-year-old, their child’s coming of age is a wonderful opportunity to invite the young adult to sit down for a brief (or not so brief) but informative chat with the family lawyer. This conversation can cover a wide range of topics, including how the legal system impacts young adults, how to avoid legal problems with roommates, traffic issues, contractual obligations, and even the perils posed by minor criminal statutes that could jeopardize their dreams and future career opportunities.

So, as a family lawyer, but perhaps even more importantly as a parent, grandparent, mentor, former teacher and professor: I cannot urge you strongly enough to engage an hour or so of your attorney’s time to counsel your young adult. This is a good time to discuss the execution of a POA and to ask questions that lead to more insight than will be provided by an Internet search.

Your attorney can provide a comprehensive guide for laws that specifically impact young adults as you expand your child’s available support systems. Ask your lawyer about the pros and cons of co-signing loans, sharing insurance policies, and a host of other legal ties that could potentially exist between a parent and their child.

You can also encourage your son or daughter to ask questions with or without you being present with the lawyer. Your attorney can touch upon such issues as prenup agreements, unplanned parental obligations, how drugs and alcohol can impact their (expensive) education, student safety and well-being concerns, when not to speak to law enforcement, etc.

This is a perfect opportunity to show your love and confidence by treating your child like an adult and hopefully giving a positive first experience with a legal advisor and counselor.

So, congratulations on a job well done for nearly two decades and welcome to the ever-changing world of parenting an adult child – your new job has just begun!

Ready to have that conversation with your child? Contact Levy & Associates, P.A. at (407) 439-2822 if you require legal guidance or representation in a family law matter. We represent clients in Altamonte Springs, Winter Springs, and Central Florida.

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