Am I Responsible for My Child After They Reach 18?

Am I Responsible for My Child After They Reach 18?
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Last updated: November 2010

The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette. This article was published on October 27, 2010.

Question:

What can a parent do with a child who is over 18, has finished school but is not working, and is a constant problem in and out of the home? I’ve heard it’s possible to evict them. Is that true? Can I be liable for what the child does, if they’re over 18?

Answer:

Generally speaking, parents only have duties to minor children. Once kids turn 18, those duties end. You can evict an adult child from your home, and then turn your back on them.

Under the Illinois Parental Responsibility Law, you can be liable for the personal or property damages caused by the “willful or malicious acts” of a child “not yet 19 years of age,” if they actually live with you. It’s not easy to make parents liable under that law, but it extends your possible exposure another year, to age 19.

Otherwise, child protection laws only protect minors “under 18 years of age.” Once they’re 18, they’re not a minor anymore. Then, state law says they’re “of legal age for all purposes.”

A child may stop being a minor at 18, but they don’t stop being your child. And you don’t stop being their parent. Your legal responsibilities, however, do stop. Others may consider it cold-hearted, but it’s perfectly legal to abandon adult children.

One parental duty that doesn’t automatically end at 18 is court-ordered child support. The law that requires child support defines “child” as “any child under age 19 who is still attending high school.” So, a child’s 18th birthday doesn’t terminate your duty to pay child support unless they’re out of high school.

It’s possible for child support orders to extend further, especially for disabled adult children.

An adult child who won’t leave home can be evicted. If there’s no lease, and no agreement to pay rent, you can just give them a “Notice to Quit” that says: “I hereby demand immediate possession of the premises at (your address).”

If they still don’t leave, you must then take step 2 of any eviction case—a court case. After you file, the child/tenant will be served with a copy of the eviction complaint, and a summons.

They can come to court and ask for a trial. At a trial, to avoid eviction, they’d have to prove some right to live in your house, or some defect in how you followed the procedures.

With an eviction order, you can have the sheriff remove them and their stuff. If they try to return after that, you could ask the police to arrest them as trespassers.

That’s pretty harsh, but in the old days they could be even harsher. In the Old Testament, parents could take a wayward child to the town elders, and say “This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard.” Then, “all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.” Apparently, just the threat—“All Israel shall hear, and fear”—kept kids in line, and things never had to go that far.

 

 

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