How a Teenager's 18th Birthday Affects Parental Rights

iced donut with candles spelling out the number 18
Wholelottarosy / Getty Images

While your teen is busy blowing out birthday candles and contemplating their new adult status, take a moment to find out the sometimes unexpected ways the law and your child's 18th birthday may affect you. Consider these effects on the parents of a child who has turned into an 18-year-old adult.

Medical Issues

Want to discuss your 18-year-old’s health, possible sexual activity, or substance abuse with their doctor or campus health services? No can do. When your child turns 18, you are no longer considered their legal representative. Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, your teen’s health records are between them and their health care provider.

If you need access, and your child agrees, they may grant you durable power of attorney, which authorizes you to make health care decisions for them, even if they are 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.)


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 and explore ways to get health coverage for your child.

Financial Privacy

Want to discuss your child’s credit card balance or financial account status with his college or bank? Their finances are as private as yours. You may still have access to any joint accounts you’ve set up with them, 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.

Most colleges and universities allow teens to charge books, sweatshirts, and other campus bookstore purchases to their campus accounts. Setting some guidelines would be a smart move.

Grades and Academic Records

Similarly, your child’s relationship with professors and college administrators is also private. Paying your child’s college tuition does not give you access to their grades.

A Word From Verywell

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 them.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Clayton EW. How much control do children and adolescents have over genomic testing, parental access to their results, and parental communication of those results to others?. J Law Med Ethics. 2015;43(3):538-44. doi:10.1111/jlme.12296

  2. Chen W. Young adults' selection and use of dependent coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Front Public Health. 2018;6:3. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2018.00003

  3. FAFSA. Website privacy policy for

By Jackie Burrell
Jackie Burrell is a former education and parenting reporter, experienced in issues around parenting young adults as a mother of four.