What is the legal definition of a minor, child or juvenile?

There are several definitions depending whether you’re dealing with a state or federal law. Here are the most commonly accepted definitions of minors, children and juveniles:

Minors or Minority Definition:
The term generally refers to anyone who has not reached full age to vote, buy alcoholic beverages, join the military, sign legal contracts and and so forth. Exactly when someone is a minor depends on the issue at hand.

An 18 year old is considered an adult when voting, joining the military, signing credit contracts and so forth.

Only people 21 years of age can purchase alcohol thus a 20 year old is still a minor in this category.

Minority is the preferred legal term because it encompasses the full range of persons who fall into underage categories such as children, infant, juvenile, young person, pupil and so forth.

Children or Child Definition:
A person who has not reached the age of 14 is considered a “child of tender age”. Just to clarify, children lose their status as a child of tender age on their 14th birthday. However, in some jurisdictions the term includes children up to the age of 21 in areas such as child custody and child support.

Juvenile Definition:
Generally this refers to people between the ages of 14 and 17. They lose their juvenile status on their 18th birthday.

Debt collection and Minors

For our purposes here, we’re talking about people that have not reached their 18th birthday and have not signed any credit contracts. There is absolutely no reason for a collector to be talking to a minor. Collectors are prohibited from discussing your debt or anything about your account with unauthorized third parties. They are also prohibited from using any threats or abusive language.

Regardless of the status of your account, DO NOT let collectors harass your children or any other minor. Immediately report illegal behavior to your state attorney general and the FTC. Contact your State Attorney General’s consumer protection division, use this attorney-general link to locate yours and then file a formal complaint. While you’re on the phone or the web site, ask if they can offer any assistance such as calling or sending the collector a written warning to stop harassing you. Also ask for a reference to any state laws that offer protection from harassment.

Then, file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well using their on-line complaint form

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