legal age

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The legal age is also known as the age of legal majority. This is the age at which a person gains the legal status of an adult. The legal age is set by state law and can differ from state to state. However, almost all states set the base legal age as 18 years old. This is the age at which a person gains control over their own actions and affairs and becomes responsible for the decisions they make. Those past the age of legal majority are usually tried as adults when charged with crimes. Once this age is reached, any existing parental, guardian, and child support obligations are considered terminated. However, minors may obtain the status of legal adulthood before reaching the legal age of majority if they are granted a court order for emancipation, or if they meet statutorily defined exceptions such as getting married as a minor or obtaining certain educational degrees.

Once a person reaches the legal age of their state, they may enter into legally enforceable agreements. Minors do not have the legal capacity to enter into a binding contract. However, an agreement made while a person was a minor may be expressly or impliedly ratified once they reach the age of legal majority so that the agreement becomes valid and binding. The age of legal majority is separate from legal age of license. A legal age of license is the minimum age a person must reach in order to legally to participate in certain activities, such as drinking alcohol, voting, or driving. Legal ages of license vary by the activity and the jurisdiction, and can, but do not have to, match the age of legal majority.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]