teenager Deciding between a short term wilderness program or academic therapeutic boarding school can be a daunting task for a parent with an at-risk adolescent. Not only are there hundreds of therapeutic schools and programs parents have to sift through, for older teens the taste for independence, freedom in making their own decisions when they turn 18 can be of great concern for parents. The Age of Majority: the moment in life every teenager waits for; is the time when a teenager feels the right of passage and believes they no longer have to listen to what their parents have to say or abide buy their house rules.

One of the problems States are facing is that the Age of Majority is skewed with the Age of Consent, which, in many States is not the same. For example: in North Carolina where the Age of Majority is 18, but the Age of Consent is 16, judicial principals do not seem to want to differentiate between the two statutes when it applies to a teenager who is more than 17 years old. Recently in Fayetteville, North Carolina a magistrate judge ruled that a 17 ½ year old runaway could not be required by his parents to attend a therapeutic boarding school in Georgia against the teenager’s wishes. Since the Age of Majority in Georgia is also 18, the magistrate said that the teenager would have the same few months before reaching his 18th birthday on which he would be able to choose if and where he went to school at all. Would the magistrate have felt differently if the teenager was enrolled in a therapeutic boarding school in a State where the Age of Majority is over 18? Maybe he would have. If the at-risk teen had been enrolled in a therapeutic boarding school or wilderness program in a State where the Age of Majority is 19 or 21 perhaps he would be there right now.

There are several States in which the Age of Majority is 19 and counties within those States in which carry the Age of Majority beyond 19. According to Hunter Investigations staff, research indicates:

  • There are no States with Age of Majority under the age of 18; and,
  • Five States have statutes that affirm an Age of Majority to be over the age of 18.

Those States with the Age of Majority over 18 are:

  • Alabama: age 19; Indiana: age 21; Mississippi: age 21;
  • Nebraska: age 19; and Pennsylvania: age 21.

The other thing to consider is extended custody. Some parents with at-risk teenagers who have a history of not making good decisions can petition the court to have extended custody granted beyond their teens eighteenth birthday. It would be up to the court to decide how long custody would be extended and it is possible that the court would not hear the petition of the parents. It all depends upon in which State you reside and the severity of the history of behavior of the teenager. Consult your attorney for assistance in the area of extended custody.

There are exceptions to the information listed and I encourage every parent to research for themselves or consult their practicing family law attorney for clarification. Also, it would be worth mentioning that the Age of Majority does not necessarily refer to the age at which a teenager can be prosecuted as an adult for committing a crime. That varies from State to State as well.

Once parents have secured enrollment for their teenager in a SafePassage Adolescent Services ® stands ready with professional Transport Teams to assist parents in transporting their at-risk adolescent to therapeutic school or program they have selected. Call our offices for a confidential, free written estimate for services: 800.811.7911 or 770.667.7467.