When you reach the age of majority -- 18 in nearly all states -- you are legally considered an adult, which means you assume the privileges and responsibilities of adulthood (the ability vote, purchase cigarettes, enter into a contract, etc.). In some limited situations, a minor may be declared a legal adult by the court through a process known as "emancipation." In order to be emancipated, children must have a place to live, a source of legal income, and the maturity required to live independently. However, not all states provide a clear process for emancipation, which often leaves the decision entirely up to the family court judge hearing the case.
But since minors still need to be able to act on their own from time to time -- such as consenting to certain medical procedures -- state legal age laws provide additional rules. For example, a minor may consent to drug or alcohol treatment without a parent's oversight in most states, since it is a highly personal decision. Access to birth control or abortion, however, varies quite a bit from one state to the next.
Rhode Island Legal Age Laws at a Glance
Rhode Island does not provide an administrative process for emancipation, but minors seeking emancipation may petition the court. Those who become emancipated in Rhode Island are treated as adults in most aspects, although drinking alcohol and serving on a jury are always restricted to those 21 and older.
Additional provisions of Rhode Island laws setting legal ages for minors are listed in the following table.
|Age of Majority
|Eligibility for Emancipation
||Common law applies, Pardey v. American Ship Windlass Co. 34 A. 737 (1896)
|Contracts by Minors
||Voidable except for necessaries, Jacobs v. United Elec. Rys. Co. 125 A. 286 (1924)
|Minors' Ability to Sue
||By next friend, representative, or guardian ad litem (R. Civ. Pro. 17(c))
|Minors' Consent to Medical Treatment
||If married or 16 years old may consent to any treatment (§23-4.6-1)
Note: State laws are always subject to change at any time through the enactment of newly signed legislation, higher court decisions, and other means. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a Rhode Island family law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
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