How to Write a Contract for Adult Children Living at Home

By Sara Ipatenco
A father and daughter standing in the driveway in front of a home.

Your adult child might return home for any number of reasons, such as job loss or divorce. Chances are, you enjoy having your child around more often. However, that doesn't mean that having an adult child living in your home is easy or stress-free. Writing a contract that you and your child each sign is key to establishing guidelines and expectations for both parties. With these expectations in place, there is a smaller risk of miscommunication, misunderstanding and hurt feelings that can be associated with the parent and adult child relationship dynamic.

List Expectations

Start your contract by listing the rules and guidelines you're each going to follow. When put into writing, it signifies the importance of how each party will behave as a member of the household and can increase the odds that everyone will adhere to them. It also keeps a record of what you've decided in case someone forgets what was agreed upon in terms of responsibility. A contract can also help reduce the risk of frustration and resentment as it helps to ensure each person involved is living up to his expectations. If your child isn't doing his part, your written contract will remind him what he agreed to.

Include Contributions

The contract with your adult child needs to list any contributions he will provide as long as he's under your roof. For example, if you plan to charge your child rent, the contract needs to state how much he will pay each month and on what day he'll give it to you. The contract should also include exactly how much you expect your child to contribute for groceries and utilities, if any, and what chores he'll be expected to do and when he'll do them. The contract should also state what responsibilities you'll take on with regard to your child, according to Debbie Pincus, a licensed mental health counselor writing for the Empowering Parents website. For example, the contract might state whether you're willing to cook your child's meals or do his laundry.

Add the Fine Print

Include the terms of the contract. Add information about how long the contract is valid and whether there is an expiration date dictating when you're child will find a place of his own. Another option is to state how much money your child will save before leaving. If you don't want to nail down a specific date, you can state that the living situation is temporary. The fine print should also include what the course of action will be if one party doesn't hold up his end of the bargain.

End With a Signature

Make the contract binding by signing and dating it and by asking your child to sign and date it. Keep a copy for each of you, as well. One goal you should have when inviting your adult child to come back home is to encourage him to learn to be independent and to take responsibility for himself, according to Pincus. A binding contract is a good step toward achieving that goal.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.