Happy 18th Birthday from the Parent Perspective

5 Ways the Law Affects Parents of New 18-year-olds

Birthday girl
Lisa Mckelvie / Getty Images

While your teen is busy blowing out birthday candles and contemplating his new adult status, take a moment to scan these five, sometimes unexpected ways the law and your child's 18th birthday may affect you:

  1. Medical Issues: Want to discuss your 18-year-old’s health, possible sexual activity or substance abuse with his doctor or campus health services? No can do. When your child turns 18, you are no longer considered his legal representative. Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, your teen’s health records are between him and his health care provider. If you need access, and your child agrees, he may grant you durable power of attorney, which authorizes you to make health care decisions for him, even if he is not incapacitated. (However, if your goal is to turn your child into a competent, independent adult, you might want to think twice about this option.)
  1. Insurance: Under the 2010 U.S. health reform act, young adults can be covered by family health insurance policies through age 26. Be sure to check with your insurance agent or click here for three ways to get health coverage for your not-yet-employed child.
  2. Financial Privacy: Want to discuss your child’s credit card balance or financial account status with his college or bank? His finances are as private as yours. You may still have access to any joint accounts you’ve set up with him, but no college purser or bank officer will break confidentiality laws for your teen’s private accounts. Most colleges, however, offer teens the option of granting their parents access to tuition and housing bills. (P.S. Most also allow teens to charge books, sweatshirts and other campus bookstore purchases to their campus accounts. Setting some guidelines would be a smart move.)
  3. Grades and Academic Records: Similarly, your son or daughter’s relationship with professors and college administrators is also private. Paying your child’s college tuition does not give you access to his grades.
  1. Your New Role: And finally, your job has changed dramatically, from 24/7 parenting to advisor. Need a good place to start? Sit down and discuss your teen’s new legal status with him.

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