Legally an Adult: What Parents Need to Know When Your Child Turns 18

When your child celebrates their eighteenth birthday it is an exciting time, beginning the next phase of their life as an adult.  Whether you feel they are ready or not, they are now recognized as a legal adult in the state of Indiana.  Because of this, it is important that you prepare for this milestone by considering some of the legal ramifications of being an adult.  Parents should put together a plan to protect their child and prepare them for this transition.  Part of this preparation should include the organization of legal documents.

To prepare your child for becoming a legal adult, consider collecting and preparing these legal documents:


Becoming a legal adult at 18 does not necessarily mean your child is developmentally ready for the responsibilities that come with adulthood.  Sometimes individuals with autism benefit from parental guardianship beyond the age of 18.  Because of this, it is recommended that parents consider the option of guardianship to protect their adult child until they are able to make decisions for themselves independently.  For more information about how to obtain guardianship for your adult child, follow this link.

Voter Registration

Once your child turns 18, they are then eligible to vote in government elections.   He or she can register online, by mail, or in person at your local DMV office.  To learn more about requirements for voter registration and to register online visit the DMV website.

Selective Services (Military Draft) Registration

Federal law mandates that when males reach the age of 18 they are required to register with Selective Services to be included in the registry for the military draft.  He can register online or via mail. Registration forms are also available at each U.S. Postal Service location.

Records Release from High School

If your child is still enrolled in high school when they turn 18, their educational record is protected under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and can only be accessed by those parties that have been given permission to do so.  This does not automatically include his or her parents.  Therefore, it is recommended that you contact your school district and have your child sign a consent form that allows you to access their educational records.  This is especially critical if your child has an IEP and is receiving special education services.

Health Care of Representative and Advanced Directive

When your child turns 18, you no longer have the legal right to make medical decisions for them unless they have given you legal permission to do so.  Because of this, it is recommended that they have an Advanced Directive and appoint a health care representative to make these decisions in cases where they are not able to do so themselves.  These legal documents will protect your child should they be in a situation where they are unable to state their wishes and they need you to make medical decisions on their behalf.  To learn more about Advanced Directives follow this link.

Often times considering these legal decisions can bring about some questions as to whether you are making the right decisions and protecting the legal interests of your child.  If you feel uneasy or have concerns about making these decisions, there are many resources available in your area to learn more about these important topics.  In addition, we recommend that you consider consulting an attorney to make sure that you are completing these forms accurately.  If you need assistance finding resources to help you in your area, your local Autism Ally is here to help.  Feel free to contact us anytime to ask for assistance.

Thanks to Kelly Pence, Autism Society of Indiana Autism Ally, for her contribution to this article. If you have any questions, please contact her at or by calling 800-609-8449 x303.

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