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Age of Majority

The age of majority is the legal age established by state law at which a person is no longer considered a child. In most states, a person has reached the age of majority at 18. Two states (Alabama and Nebraska) set the age of majority to be 19 and one, Mississippi, sets the age of majority at 21.

A person who reaches the age of majority is legally entitled to make adult decisions and engage in activities that an adult is allowed to engage in, such as getting married, joining the military, entering a contract, making a valid will, and voting. The person takes majority control over their person, actions and decisions, effectively ending the legal control of his or her parents. This is in contrast to a "minor" who is only in minor control of his decisions and actions.


Difference Between Age of Majority and Age of License

There are two different concepts that are sometimes confused: the age of majority and the age of license. While these two sometimes coincide time-wise, they are not the same thing. The age of majority is the legal recognition that a person is now an adult. The age of license is the age at which the government grants a person a license, or permission, to engage in a certain act. Examples of actions falling under the concept of "age of license" are: driving a motor vehicle, purchasing and consuming alcoholic beverages, and entering into contracts for items other than necessaries.

Age of License May be Lower or Higher than the Age of Majority

In some cases, the age of license is younger than the age of majority. For example, a person may obtain the right to drive although he has not yet reached the age of majority. In other cases, an age of license may be higher than the age of majority. A person may be of the age of majority of 18 (as is the case in most states) but may not have the right to purchase alcoholic beverages until he reaches the age of 21.


A person who has been legally emancipated by the court automatically attains the age of majority. He or she is no longer controlled by his parents and is free to make decisions as an adult. Only the emancipation process may confer the age of majority status upon someone who has not reached the actual age of majority. Most jurisdictions consider minors who marry to be automatically emancipated and to have obtained age of majority status.

Child Support and the Age of Majority

Many times the responsibility to provide child support ends when the child reaches the age of majority. However, some courts may require a parent to support a child that has already reached the age of majority and is attending college.


The age of majority is that age at which a child reaches adulthood and is legally responsible for his decisions. The age of majority in most states is 18. Three others have an age of majority at age 19 or 21. The age of majority differs from the age of license. The age of license refers to the age at which the government may grant a license, or permission, to engage in certain activities, such as driving, voting, and entering contracts, while the age of majority refers to the age when a person held responsible as an adult for his decisions.

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Comments (1)add comment
Kristen: ...
I think that 21 YO is too late for the age of majority. People in 18 are adult enough to be responsible for their actions.
Kristen, sodokuhttp://thesudokugame.net/

August 13, 2012

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David M. McCormick
Newport News Family Law and Bankruptcy Attorney

One Oyster Point 827 Diligence Drive, Suite 200
Newport News, Virginia 23606
Practice Areas: Family Law, Debt and Bankruptcy, Divorce, Adoption, Traffic Law Violations