Parental Responsibility for 18 Year Olds

By Oubria Tronshaw
In the eyes of the law, your child is all grown up.
In the eyes of the law, your child is all grown up.

Although law states that your 18 year old is technically an adult, it might be hard to see him as anything other than your baby. Of course you'd still move heaven and earth to help him. However, your diminished role -- legally speaking -- is designed for him to learn how to help himself.

Legal Responsibility

According to the law in most states, young adults are considered the “age of majority,” which means they are are no longer a child in the eyes of the law. Although they are still not legally able to drink, being 18 does come with a host of new privileges and liabilities that are no longer under parental control, including the ability to enter into contracts and other legal agreements, such as getting a credit card or buying, selling or renting property, becoming an organ donor, getting married, getting sued, entering the armed forces, making a will, inheriting property, making decisions about medical treatment and living alone without parental supervision.

Parental Responsibility

Once a child turns 18, the legal role of his parents diminishes significantly. According to the Montana Office of Public Instruction, parents of 18 year olds are no longer responsible for providing children with a place or means to live and are not liable for any criminal or civil offenses committed by their children. At this age, children can be tried in court and sued over contracts as adults and must fulfill certain civil commitments like jury duty and signing up for selective service.


Although 18 is the “legal age” of adulthood, a 2012 New York Times article reports that the human brain is still developing all the way through a person’s early to mid-20s. Although 18 year olds are grownups in the eyes of the law, in reality, according to the article, they don’t quite have the full mental capacity necessary for understanding the risks or rewards of certain behaviors, comprehending future consequences or planning ahead. Parents should keep this in mind once children turn 18. Although they are legally liable for themselves and their actions, wise counsel and guidance are still necessary for continued growth and development.


Parents of 18 year olds should follow a few guidelines to navigate a new, adult relationship with their teen. Parents should listen to their kids and provide advice when solicited, but they should remember that their new role is to provide support, encouragement and empathy without stepping in to solve problems or remove obstacles. Kids need to discover their sources of wisdom and tenacity to develop the life skills necessary to solve their own problems.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.