Important Details Regarding Minors and Contracts
Minors have limited ability to enter into a contract agreement. A minor in a contract law case is anyone under the age of eighteen. There are several circumstances under which a person below the age of eighteen may have the full legal capacity to enter into a contract. If a person is married while under eighteen years of age, they usually are held to the full capability to enter into contracts, although this is determined on a State by State basis.
Emancipation may also cause an individual to cease to be considered a minor. Emancipation is a legal process which takes place when an individual who has not yet reached the normal age of majority can be declared to no longer be a minor if they are paying their own bills, supplying their own place of residence, and are no longer reliant upon their parent or legal guardian in any way.
A minor who has been emancipated has all the contractual rights and obligations of a person who has reached the age of majority. Unless the minor has been emancipated, they have distinct contractual rights.
The first right granted to minors in contract law cases is the right to disaffirm. Disaffirming occurs when the minor states, either in a verbal declaration or by their actions, that they no longer intend to be bound by the terms of the contract to which they are a party. Upon reaching the age of majority, the minor may choose to disaffirm the contract they were entered into while in the minority. If they do not disaffirm the contract within a reasonable period of time, they are considered to have ratified the contract.
There are several restrictions placed in contract law cases on when a minor is permitted to disaffirm a contract agreement. The minor must disaffirm the contract agreement within a reasonable amount of time of reaching the age of majority. A minor is not allowed to utilize their right to disaffirm if they have falsely stated their age or if the contract agreement was engaged in order to obtain services or goods deemed essential to their survival.
An increasing number of states are restricting the ability of a minor to disaffirm a contract if they have benefitted from the contract in any way. A minor disaffirming a contract is required to make every effort to restore the other party to the status they were in prior to the assumption of the contract. The courts do recognize that a minor who has disaffirmed a contract involving a good they are no longer in possession of are usually not held responsible for compensating the other party.
Contract law cases generally do not extend a minor’s liability to a guardian or parent. The only time a guardian assumes legal liability for a contract agreement their ward enters into in contract law cases is if the guardian co-signs the contract.