When Your Baby Becomes a Legal Adult: What You Need to Know

By Lindsey Johnson

In what feels like an overnight transition, our babies go from diapers to adulthood. How does it happen so fast? We’ve compiled a list of things you need to know as they approach their 18th birthday so you, and them, are prepared for their transition to adulthood. 


Legal residents are eligible to vote in local and national elections once they turn 18. Teens may preregister to vote at age 16 and can vote in elections occurring after their 18th birthday. Talk to your child about how to research candidates, campaign platforms and weed through political jargon. To register, visit registertovoteflorida.gov. 


Young men must register with the Selective Service within 30 days before and up to 30 days after their 18th birthday. Current law does not permit females to register. To register, visit sss.gov/register. 

Teens aged 17 and older are eligible to enlist in the military if they have a high school diploma and are a U.S. citizen. Seventeen-year-old applicants require parental consent. Talk to your child about whether this may be a good career path for them. For more information, visit military.com/join-armed-forces. 

Applying for Credit Cards 

Once your child becomes a legal adult, they can apply for credit cards. While some credit cards may require a cosigner or additional requirements, that’s not always the case. Many college students have signed up for credit cards simply to get a free t-shirt and found themselves in trouble when they’ve racked up significant debt. Talk to your child about the pros and cons of credit cards and discuss responsible usage. 

Medical Records and Medical Care 

Once your child is a legal adult, you will no longer have access to their medical records due to HIPAA laws. In order for you to receive information about their medical care, lab results and diagnoses, your child must sign a consent form allowing you to have access to this information. In some instances, your child may also become the guarantor for their account in healthcare settings, meaning they are financially responsible for their incurred costs, even if they are on your insurance. Discuss your copays, coinsurances and how and when they may be expected to pay for medical expenses. 

School Transcripts 

If your child is in high school, college or technical school, their school records may only be released directly to them. If you’d like to check up on their grades, you will need to ask your child for a copy. Set expectations about what you want to see and when. 

Legal Concerns 

If your child is arrested, they will be tried as an adult and face more severe consequences. Discuss with your child the meaning of a permanent record and potential for serving time in adult jail so they have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions. If your child has a younger significant other, discuss with them the nature of their relationship and the potential consequences of engaging in a sexual way. 


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