Your Parental Rights Change When Your Teen Turns 18

How Your Parental Rights Change When Your Teen Turns 18|

Written By Melanie Studer

Melanie Prather Studer has spent the last thirty years as a mother and teacher- preschool through middle school. When her kids became teenagers, Melanie started keeping notes and doing research to help her children get a head start on getting into college and ultimately out into the real world. She shares real world ideas and solutions for raising teens in today’s world.

March 31, 2020

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Your teen is 18!  Your parental rights are different now, as in basically gone.

Do you have a college freshman?  Get ready for things to change in more ways than one.  Your parental rights are about gone!

Did you know that you have no rights to their school information like grades, financial aid etc?

Did you know that once your kiddo turns 18, you will not be able to even make them a doctor’s appointment or call with an insurance question about your own child?!!!!!  Whaaaaaaat?

I found this out the hard way when I called to doctor to find out some info about one of my boys’ doctor appointments. They wouldn’t tell me anything! Keep in mind that this was our pediatrician, who I had known since the morning my oldest was born more than 20 years ago…

In addition to all of the dorm room supplies, school supplies and other miscellaneous stuff,  you need to be aware of some really important terms:  FERPA, HIPAA, and Selective Service to name a few.

Once your child enters college, and especially after they turn 18, your parental rights will drastically change, as in disappear.  Read on to find out what these terms mean, and how you can be prepared for these changes.  *This post may contain affiliate links.  This means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase.

Coronavirus Update

(In this day of COVID-19, the medical portion of this post is very important to know about. Your child needs to let his medical providers know that he or she gives permission to you for medical treatment. In most cases, the virus has been mild for young adults. However, the doctors are saying, if a case becomes severe, it can happen very rapidly.) Please read the section below about HIPAA carefully.

Pin for later!

Parental Rights Change When Your Teen is 18|

FERPA – Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

So. let’s say that you suspect that your child has been skipping classes, or you want to make sure that your child didn’t drop a class and scoop up that money.  You cannot find out from the college unless the FERPA has been signed!

FERPA is the law that protects student educational records.  It includes protections for … a child’s education records, such as, report cards, transcripts, disciplinary records, contact and family information, and class schedules.  

This means that at the age of 18, all rights that you have had as a parent regarding these types of information transfer to your student.

There are exceptions when a school may, but IS NOT REQUIRED to-share this information about the student’s educational records.  The exceptions include situations where the student’s health or safety may be at risk, instances of drugs or alcohol if the student is under the age of 21 and/or if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.

The point being, that unless your student signs the FERPA when registering for classes or at student orientation or at any time, then you may or MAY NOT be able to see your child’s grades, see their financial records at the school or be able to help make decisions regarding their health should a situation occur on campus.

It is a simple form that carries significant weight.

The truth is that your child will not necessarily know what this is!

Unless you basically make your teen sign the FERPA, then you will be out of luck when trying to communicate with the school if you want any real answers.  Look for this when your child is uploading all of their info to their college once they are accepted.



Here’s another example of parental loss of power…  Your child has gone to the health clinic at their college.  You call the clinic to find out more information from them about the diagnosis because your child cannot tell you much since they didn’t really listen.  No can do.  Unless your child has signed the HIPAA and put your name on it!

HIPAA is another governmental term.  The Health Information and Portability Accountability Act comes into action when your teen turns 18.  Up until this point, you as the parent have signed the HIPAA form at all doctors visits.  This includes dental, vision, and insurance information as well as primary care.

Now, your 18 year old will sign the form and list any adults who may be given information regarding their health. If you are not on that list, then you will not be privy to any of that information. (A really good description for an 18 year old to read about what the HIPAA means is here.)

Another option to consider is a durable power of attorney.  This would need to be signed by your teen once they are 18.  This would be a really good thing to have in place if for some reason your child were to become incapacitated in some way.

Check out Mama Bear Legal Forms. They offer both health and financial power of attorney legal documents. We have had these drawn up for our two oldest boys while they are in college.

Selective Service

Once your son turns 18, he needs to register with the Selective Service.  He will have 30 days to do so.  It is a federal offense not to register.  He will be unable to get a driver’s license or apply for student loans or grants.  There is a hefty fine of $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison for not signing up.

Conscientious objectors and disabled persons need to register as well.  If the draft ever comes back, those individuals can can register their objections or disabilities then.

At this point in time, girls do not have to sign up for this.

Legal Status of Being 18

Turning 18 has many implications.  In most states, being 18 is considered being an adult-age of majority.  Some things to consider…

As an adult, a person can buy property, vote, or even get married in most states.  Jury duty is now a possibility as well.

As an adult, a person can now be put in prison if convicted of a crime, can legally gamble, and can now be sued.  Not all fun and games!

One tool that young adults may want to take advantage of is life insurance.  It all depends on circumstances.  Some young people may be facing financial hardships or want to utilize life insurance as an investment tool.  Here is a quick link to a guide explaining more about this.

One more thing that your 18 year old needs to consider.  Sex.  If your son or daughter is dating someone younger than them, which many of them are, then they can be charged with, and be prosecuted with statutory rape.  This varies from state to state, and the description of what that means also varies from state to state. Also, sexting as an adult is a crime.  It is distribution of pornography.   Please make them aware of this!

This is a lot!  All of it is important!  Be sure that you and your teen have discussions about all of this over time.  These are big topics, so don’t try to discuss it all at once.  Your role as a parent will definitely change, and that’s a good thing!  Just know that as you lose your parental rights, they are gaining their rights as adults, and that’s a good thing too!

I feel your pain, but hope that this information helps you along this crazy journey as our kids become adults!

Related posts:  10 Items You Will Be So Glad to Have in the Dorm, Ways to Help Support Your Teen Get Ready For Finals

If you have a younger teen, check out our Parent Toolkit for Surviving High School

Have you read my book?! Take the time to have these important conversations with your teenagers, even if college is not on their radar. There are many life skills that are covered.  College Bound:  The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School

Pin for later!

Parental Rights Change When Your Teen is 18|

You May Also Like…


  1. When my son turned 18 (some years ago, now) – learning all this you mention was a shock. I didn’t know of the existence of the FERPA form, either (and apparently, no one was about to tell my husband or myself) but it appears to have been around for many years. As they say, knowledge is power, because your teen does need to be prepared for his or her role as an adult – and it is the parent’s responsibility to educate them.

    • I know right? As each thing happened to us, I kept thinking, “Why did no one tell me all of this?!” Hence, this blog post, so that hopefully a few people can read this before or as this is happening. It has gone so much more smoothly with my second 18 year old. Knowledge is power, so hopefully this will help others.

    • You are welcome. This came about because all of these things were learned the hard way through all of our older kids.
      At least knowing it this time with our freshman, who just turned 18, made things a lot easier!

  2. We have been there when our college son had an emergency appendectomy 6 hours away from us. We had to have him sign a form so we could talk to the insurance company on his behalf to straighten out all of the billing. It is a whole new world when they are over 18 and are an “adult” in the eyes of institutions and the law, but still need your help navigating it all. I wrote a post about it: if you would like to read about our experience.

    • Wow! I’ve heard of this happening, so I will definitely read your post. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Our kiddos are all grown up now, but I remember being surprised to learn all of this when our first went to college. This is good information you’re providing for people who might be unaware.

    • Us too! We would love for you to share this with your friends who have teens!

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this. So many people have no idea. You can pay college tuition and not have a right to see their grades????

    • I know right?!!! It was such a shock to us every time one of these happened with our first son. Hoping to help others with this info:)

  5. I enjоy ԝhat you gᥙys are usuaⅼly up too. This sort of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve incorporated you ցuys
    to my personaⅼ blogrоll.

    • Thank you! We love that people are starting to find our blog!

  6. Excellent post. I did a smilier research project for a blog about four years ago. It’s tedious. This provides great information in an easy to read form. Thanks.

    • “All the things” can be overwhelming! Thank you for your kind words.

  7. so important- my 20 year old had a panic attack and when we called the doctor at 2am this came up – fortunately she is also a family friend and my kid was consenting- need to get some papers in order before they go back to campus!

    • Yes! I am so glad that worked out for your family. It’s amazing what you don’t know that you don’t know.

  8. I have all my college stuff figured out in a different state than him. I am about to turn 18 and my plan was to leave my father and go off to college with my friend and plan our future together but he is making me stay with him. I purchased my own plane ticket and I was provided a place to stay while I am in college. I need some help because my father is not letting me leave him even though I am 18

    • Please check your email.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Thrive Through High School

Join our mailing list to receive your high school survival kit. Stay organized with the necessary information required when applying for colleges, scholarships and future employment..


You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest