Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 20, 2013

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In all states, the age requirement to sign a contract is 18 years of age. A child under the age of 18 is considered a minor and is unable to sign a contract unless it is for essential items. Essential items include medicines, food, and medical services. Otherwise, the minor child must have a parent or guardian consent to the contract in order for it to be legally binding.

If your minor child has signed a contract for a non-essential item without your approval, the contract is not valid. In other words, you can contact the business and have the contract destroyed. Valid contracts are only so if the parent or guardian consented to the contract. Any items that the child purchased on contract would need to be returned. Fortunately, the retailers must return the items regardless of their return policy, since they violated the state’s law in allowing the minor to sign the contract in the first place.

If your child is emancipated, meaning the court awarded them adult status while they were still underage, then their contracts are considered valid. In addition, if the child went to great lengths to make it appear that they were 18, such as producing a false identification card, then the court may decide that the contract is legally binding despite the child’s status as a minor.

If your minor child has signed a contract and the merchant is refusing to cancel the contract, contact an attorney for assistance. Based on the age requirements alone, most attorneys can send a simple letter to the merchant that will be sufficient warning for them to cancel the contract.