Criminal charges will generally no longer be handled by Family Court

When you reach 18, you will be treated as an adult in the legal system.  This means that for criminal behavior, you will generally go to the Justice of the Peace Court, Court of Common Pleas, or Superior Court, and NOT Family Court[1].  Consequences for adult criminal behavior are more severe than for juvenile delinquency behavior.  It will be very important to have a lawyer representing you if you go to court.  If you have had previous interactions with the juvenile justice system, turning 18 is an excellent time to start fresh.  You can take positive steps to comply with the law going forward and may also have an opportunity to clear your prior juvenile record.

Potential to Remove Juvenile Records from Your Background

If you have a juvenile delinquency record, once you turn 18, you might be able to apply for an expungement. It is important to do this. When you apply for a job, the employer can do a criminal background check. Juvenile records will come up in this check. The procedures for juvenile criminal record expungement are further in explained in our Employment and Vocational Rights Guide, available at:

Signing Contracts / Agreements

At 18, you will be held personally responsible for any contracts or other legal agreements which you approve, unless you have a guardian appointed by the Court of Chancery as an adult.  This means that when you sign your name to paperwork agreeing to buy, rent, or pay for services, both you and the person or the business that you are dealing with have specific legal rights and responsibilities. You can go to court to enforce the agreement if the other person does not follow the agreement.  However, it is important to know that if you do not keep your part of the bargain, that the other person or business can also take you to court.  Some common agreements you may encounter are apartment leases, cellular phone plans, and even credit card applications and  loans which will be discussed in the financial section of this guide.  Failure to meet your part of the contract can cost you a lot of money in damages and penalties. So, it is very important that you read all contracts and agreements very closely, and that if you do not understand something to seek help prior to signing the paperwork.  Also, do not sign a contract with blank spaces, unless you cross them out before signing and always keep a signed copy of the agreement for your records.

You should also know that oral agreements can still be legal contracts that can be enforced in court.  Therefore, you should be careful before you enter an oral agreement, just like a written one.  Of course, it can be harder to prove that they exist, or the terms of the contract.  The best idea is to, whenever possible, have all contracts in writing.

Other: Liability, Marriage, Military Service, Wills & Inheritance

Liability – You can sue or be sued in your own name, and if you lose in court, you will be personally responsible to pay the money stated by the court.

Marriage – You can marry without the consent of your parents or Family Court.

Military Service – You can join the military without your parent’s consent.

Wills – You can make or revoke a will.

Inheritance – If someone dies and leaves you money or property, you can inherit it directly.

[1] There are some exceptions to this rule.  Certain types of cases may remain the jurisdiction of Family Court, such as: misdemeanor cases between family members, misdemeanor committed against children, selling alcohol to a child, and others. See 10 Del. C. § 922.