My Child Is 18; Now What?

It seems like just yesterday your daughter was a toddler and you were beaming with pride as she took her first wobbly steps.  You have been there for her on her first day of school and when she learned to ride a bicycle.  Soon she was driving, as evidenced by a few extra gray hairs on your head.  Now, she is reaching adulthood, her 18th birthday.

Q.:  Does my legal relationship to my daughter change once she turns 18?

A.: Yes.  Now your daughter is a legal adult and can make her own decisions, even if you do not agree with them.  What’s more, you no longer have legal rights to make decisions for her.  This can present difficulties, especially if she goes away to college or travels abroad.   She may have a car or other assets that must be sold or managed in her absence.  She may have health care issues.  She also may be encouraged to establish a will for herself.

Q.:  My daughter owns a car, but will be out of the country this summer.  What can I do if something happens to her car?

A.: Let’s say your daughter leaves her car parked in front of your house.  After she leaves, her car gets towed because she has several unpaid parking tickets.  You cannot get her car from the impound lot because you are not the owner.  However, you can avoid such a scenario by completing a property power of attorney that would allow you to make decisions about your daughter’s property as her “agent.”  This would allow you to retrieve the car.  You also could sell the car if she needs extra cash for the trip.

Q.:  My son has a chronic health condition.  Can I make health care decisions for him even though he’s now 18?

A.: A document called the durable health care power of attorney would allow you, as your son’s agent, to make health care decisions for him in the event he is unable to make those decisions for himself.  While hospital personnel may allow you to make decisions as his parent, they may be reluctant to do so, especially if his other parent is not present and in agreement.  Finally, the “HIPAA” authorization form allows you to access medical information about your child.  Beginning in 2003, strict new regulations were put in place regarding the release of medical information.  Hospitals and other health care providers face huge penalties if they release patient information to any unauthorized individual.  With the HIPAA authorization form, you can get medical information about your child (for example, a copy of his vaccination record for school, or information about a serious medical concern).

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Where can I find more information about how legal rights and responsibilities change when my daughter turns 18?

A.: You may wish to go to the “public/student and teacher” area of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Web site at for a brochure and links to other resources about this subject, or you may wish to consult with your attorney.

The information contained herein is general and should not be applied to specific legal problems without first consulting with one of our attorneys.


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