Parental responsibility for 18-year-olds

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Laws pertaining to parental responsibility for 18-year-olds will differ depending on the country of residence. In the UK, when a child reaches the age of 16, he or she can already begin taking a number of different decisions which don’t always require parental consent.

When a child turns 18, UK law considers that child to be an adult in every sense. 18-year-olds are entitled to the same control and privacy over their lives awarded to and enjoyed by their parents.


UK laws relating to education are changing. At present, a child is still free to leave full time education when he or she turns 16. However, from September 2013 the education leaving age in the UK will rise to 17 and in 2015 that age will rise again to 18. This means that parents will be legally required to ensure that their children attend some kind of formal education until the age of 18 from 2015 onwards. When a child turns 18, he or she will still be able to decide whether or not higher education is something he or she wishes to pursue and parents have no legal say over whether an 18 year old remains in education or not. However, the level of financial support offered to that child by the UK government will depend on the financial situation of his or her family and, by law, this information must be provided when the time comes.

Legal rights

When a child turns 18 in the UK, parents no longer have a legal right to control what the child does or the decisions that he or she makes. At that age they are free to buy what they want, work where they want, travel where they wish to travel and live wherever they wish to live. Furthermore, 18-year-olds are also free to marry who they want and follow the religious beliefs that they wish to follow. In a nutshell, an 18-year-old is free to live his or her life as he or she chooses. Parents may still wish to guide their children and may worry about the decisions that they make, but UK law is designed protect the wishes of the “child” and the parent isn’t able to use the law to maintain control over his or her child’s actions.


From age 18 you also have complete control over your finances. Parents have no legal right to know what their children earn, the investments that they make, the products or services that they pay for, or the savings decisions that they choose. An 18-year-old may choose to make a family member a joint account holder, a beneficiary or an emergency contact for all things related to finances, but there’s no UK law which can force an 18-year-old to share finances and financial information with his or her parents. Family ties or family duties might mean a lot to the family on an emotional level, but they would have no weight in a UK court.

16-year-olds in the UK

Even though children in the UK need to be 18 in order to be completely free of parental control in the legal sense, there are a number of different circumstances in the UK in which a child between the ages of 16 to 17 might be able to contest a parent’s decision. When a child turns, he or she is legally able to change his or her name on a birth certificate without getting parental consent. A 16 or 17-year-old is also legally allowed to join the armed forces, join a religion and consent to having sex. It is a legal requirement for children under the age of 18 to be in the care of a parental figure, but in some circumstances a UK court might rule otherwise if it believes it is in the best interests of the child. Between the ages of 16 and 17, if a child doesn’t want to live with his or her parents, a UK court might rule in favour of the child and remove parental rights over that child for the child’s wellbeing. The legal age for marriage in the UK is 18, but between the ages of 16 and 17 (with parental consent) it is possible for a child to marry legally.