Legal Age Limit Laws in General
Most states have different age limits for different types of legal transactions, such as the ability to enter into a contract or file a lawsuit. All states restrict alcoholic beverages to those 21 and older, but other adult rights and responsibilities are tied to the age of majority. The federal government also has age limits, such as those related to labor regulations (the Fair Labor Standards Act prohibits children under 14 from being employed, for example).
What is the Age of Majority?
The age of majority -- the age at which individuals are considered adults under the law -- is 18 in most states (others are either 19 or 21). Anyone who has reached the age of majority is liable for most of his or her actions, whereas a "minor" is the legal responsibility of parents or legal guardians.
The age of majority in Pennsylvania is 18. According to the statute, any individual 18 and older:
- Has the right to enter into binding and legally enforceable contracts (thus losing the defense of minority).
- May sue and be sued in civil court.
Pennsylvania's legal ages laws specify that minors may be represented by a guardian, guardian ad litem, or next friend (a "next friend" is someone acting on behalf of the minor without formal appointment).
Pennsylvania Age Limit Laws
Beyond the age of majority split, Pennsylvania law does not state definitive ages at which a minor is eligible for emancipation, with only some guidance pertaining to legal consent for medical treatment. A minor may consent to medical treatment related to drug and alcohol abuse; pregnancy; or sexually transmitted disease.
Also, Pennsylvania children 14 and older may provide consent for any mental health treatment, including prescription drugs.
While statute doesn't specifically address emancipation, state agencies have the authority to determine whether a minor should be emancipated (while marriage, military service, and other actions automatically result in emancipation).
The following table lists the various provisions of Pennsylvania's legal age laws. See Emancipation of Minors Basics and Parental Liability Basics for related information.
|Age of Majority
|Eligibility for Emancipation
|Contracts by Minors
||Voidable except for necessaries until age 18 (common law)
|Minors' Ability to Sue
||18 or older may sue or be sued as adult; infant may be represented by guardian, guardian ad litem, next friend (23, §5101)
|Minors' Consent to Medical Treatment
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact a Pennsylvania family law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Pennsylvania Family Laws: Related Resources
Find a Local Attorney for Your Family Law Needs
A lot of state laws and legal processes have age-related restrictions, such as the legal distinction of "minors." If you are considering becoming emancipated from your parents or have other age-related legal questions, it's in your best interests to contact a Pennsylvania family law attorney.