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District of Columbia Legal Ages Laws

When does a child become an adult? While you might get a different answer depending on who you ask, the law is very clear. Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia set the age of majority at eighteen years of age. That’s when a minor becomes an adult and assumes the full rights available to them under the law.

It's important to understand the significance of becoming an adult, however. While restrictions on minors' ability to gamble, buy cigarettes, and manage their own property or money might seem burdensome, these restrictions are designed to protect minors. Those protections and benefits cease on becoming an adult. An eighteen year old is bound to honor contracts entered into and can be charged with crimes as an adult.

Most legal obligations on parents (such as paying child support) cease on a child reaching eighteen years of age too. Here’s quick summary of legal age laws in the District of Columbia and some specific notes on what minors can’t do without a parent or guardian.

D.C. Legal Ages Laws

The age of majority in the District of Columbia is eighteen years. Attaining adulthood removes many of the age restrictions in place under D.C. law. Minors need a representative to file a lawsuit, cannot gamble, face restrictions on accessing winnings from a lottery prize, cannot marry without parental consent, and cannot purchase or possess cigarettes or tobacco products. All of these disappear on turning eighteen. There’s still the restriction on buying alcohol, however, which is twenty-one in the District.

Other legal obligations tied to a child’s minority are altered as well. Minors who possess legal claims generally have additional time to file a lawsuit. Once they turn eighteen, the statute of limitations on any legal claim may start to run. And while holding minors to contracts can prove difficult, adults can be held to their contracts and obligations no matter how bad a deal it turned out to be. 

The law also restricts what kind of jobs and what kind of hours minors can work. These disappear at the age of eighteen too, even if you're still in school. For parents, child support obligations generally cease once a child reaches the age of majority. Reaching adulthood can serve as a trigger for other rights and obligations as well.

Age of Majority Eighteen years (§ 46-101).
Eligibility for Emancipation Not specified.
Contracts for Minors Common law rule that minors cannot be charged or held to a debt unless promise made in writing and signed. (§ 28-3505).
Minors’ Ability to Sue Yes, but by a proper representative (§ 12-302).
Minors’ Consent to Medical Treatment If connected to pregnancy, substance abuse, psychological disturbance, or sexually transmitted disease (22 DCMR §600.7).

Related Resources for Legal Ages Laws

Age restrictions on minor children exist to protect them. Those special protections cease to exist upon becoming an adult. For specific questions about legal age laws, we recommend contacting a local family law attorney for advice and assistance.

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