Turning 18


Why is turning 18 important legally?

When you reach your 18th birthday, you gain most of the rights and responsibilities of being an adult in Illinois. Instead of your parents, foster parents (unless you enroll in the extended foster care program), judges, or caseworkers making decisions for you, you become the primary decision-maker. Your decide where to live and work, whether to continue to go to school, and whether to marry or start a family.

Am I still a dependent when I turn 18?

In most cases, no. You may have been classified as a dependent of the State of Illinois while you were under the age of 18 if you were abandoned, abused, or neglected and without a parent, guardian or custodian.

However, if you were in foster care when you turned 18, you may be eligible for extended foster care until you turn 21.

If you were not in foster care when you turned 18 (i.e., you were reunited with your parents before turning 18), you are no longer considered a dependent and are not eligible for extended foster care.

Becoming an Adult

Becoming an adult: what are my rights and responsibilities?

When you turn 18, you gain both rights and responsibilities. In Illinois, these rights include voting, entering into contracts, making a will, power of attorney, and making organ donation and end-of-life arrangements:

· You have the right to vote, to sign a contract, and to apply for a loan.

· Men are required to register for the draft within 30 days of turning 18 (see Draft Registration section below).

· You have the right to make a will or power of attorney.

· You have the right to make end-of-life decisions for yourself.

· You have the right to be an organ donor.

· You are responsible for fulfilling your obligations - living up to contracts and agreements, and obeying the law.

· If you have had any criminal convictions before you turned age 18, there are steps you can take to seal the record permanently, or expunge (erase) the record entirely. See General Criminal Law Chapter of this manual for further information. Note that this is not based on turning 18, but is based on the number of years after being released.

· After you turn 18, you are considered an adult in terms of civil or criminal infractions.

· If someone sues you or if you want to sue someone else, you have the right to hire an attorney to represent you. See Lawsuits in General Chapter

Who can advise me about important decisions if my parents cannot?

Just because you turned 18 years old and can now make many decisions on your own as an adult does not mean that you should not continue to seek competent advice from a trusted adult.

· A foster parent or guardian is no longer legally responsible to provide assistance (unless you are in extended foster care), but may still be a good source of advice or direction.

· Another mature adult, such as a former case worker, teacher, mentor, pastor or lawyer may be willing to advocate on your behalf. (A co-worker who just turned 19 may not be knowledgeable enough).

· The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has an Advocacy Office where information and assistance can be obtained. You may contact the DCFS Advocacy Office at 1-800-232-3798 or www.state.il.us/dcfs.

· If you are employed, there may be an Employee Assistance Program available through your workplace which provides confidential counseling for a variety of issues.

· Please see the resources listed in the Public Benefits Chapter of this manual for agencies that oversee financial assistance for shelter, food, education, and medical needs.

· The Internet can be a helpful tool, but it is important to understand that not everything on the Internet is true. If you are unsure whether a source on the Internet is reliable, then it is best to ask someone else you can trust.

Aging Out of Foster Care

I was in foster care prior to turning 18. Can I stay after I turn 18?

Yes, Illinois allows you to stay in Foster Care until you are 19, or until age 21 for “good cause” where there is evidence presented to the court that your health, safety and best interest require continuation of Foster Care.

If you are a former DCFS ward over the age of 18 whose juvenile court cases closed because you were emancipated, you may qualify to return to the Foster Care system if you need help. Illinois passed the “Foster Child Successful Transition Into Adulthood Act”, which allows youth who have aged-out of foster care to seek help from the system until age 21 if they run into problems making it on their own.

You should also know that cash assistance services might be available to help you if you are out of foster care, but before you are age 21, and are in crisis. Cash assistance may be used for housing and utility deposits, emergency rental assistance, temporary rental subsidies, and necessary furniture or appliances. You must be between the ages of 18-21.

See the Foster Care Chapter for more information.

For more information, contact:

· DCFS at 1-800-232-3798; or

· Ted Ernst, Youth Housing Assistance Coordinator, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, 1-312-814-5571, TErnst@idcfs.state.il.us.

My foster home has been abusive. Should I just leave, or should I seek legal assistance?

Seek assistance! If you are or have been verbally, physically or sexually abused, immediately report the situation to a trusted adult such as a medical professional, teacher or case worker.

You are allowed to find a new place to live, as long as the court approves it.

It is important to report any abuse incidents to protect yourself and others from further abuse and to prosecute the abusers.

The statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in Illinois may extend 10 years past your 18th birthday, or five years past the “discovery” (when you remembered the childhood abuse). Additionally, if a person is subject to “threats, intimidation, manipulation or fraud perpetrated by the abuser or by any person acting in the interests of the abuser,” the statute of limitations will not run during this period.

For more information, see the Foster Care Chapter.

I have been in foster care and I am now turning 18. Can foster care help me with college?

There are several programs available for youth. See this website for a list of ways that you might be able to receive help:

You might also look into scholarships that are designed for foster youth:

The school’s registrar or financial aid office may provide additional information about resources available to youth from foster care. See the Foster Care Chapter for more information.

I have been in foster care for years. When I turn 18, can I go visit my biological parents without limitations? My siblings?

Generally, If you have been in foster care, your ability to visit your biological parents and siblings without limitation would depend upon when your parents are dismissed as parties to your dependency case. Prior court-ordered visitation schedule or requirements for you and your parents in that case will no longer apply once they are dismissed as a party.

In Illinois, if the court does not close the case before you turn 19, wardship terminates by operation of law on your 19th birthday. But if the court finds it to be in your best interest, your wardship may be extended to age 21.

There may be other court orders prohibiting contact between you and your parents. Contact with your siblings may also be ordered in your dependency case, and if your siblings are still dependent, you may be required to follow a court-ordered visitation schedule with them. If your siblings are not dependent, there would not be a court ordered visitation schedule with that sibling. You should ask your attorney or your GAL to assist you in finding out whether contact with your parents or siblings is permitted.

IMPORTANT: The issue here is jurisdiction. The court cannot order visitation for people not under its jurisdiction. The court would not have jurisdiction over parents when the parents are dismissed as parties to the dependency case.

See the Foster Care Chapter for more information.

Foster Care After 18

I have not been in foster care, but my parent wants me to move out when I turn 18. Can I go to a foster home?

No. If you have not been declared a dependent of the State, you do not qualify for foster care.

I have not been in foster care, but I have been living with a legal guardian. Do I have to move out when I turn 18? Can I go to a foster home?

A legal guardianship, granted by a court, generally terminates when you turn 18. You would not be eligible for foster care.

If the guardianship was terminated before you turned 18, you may have been assigned a foster parent. At that point, you became eligible for the option of choosing extended foster care benefits noted above.

Legal Considerations

What if I am stopped or arrested by the police?

If a police officer has reason to believe that you have committed a crime or are in the process of committing a crime, the officer may arrest you. In certain circumstances, a police officer may make an “investigatory stop” to determine if you are committing or have committed a crime. The police officer may even hold you for a brief period of time to ask you questions based on a reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity.

If you are arrested, it is important to stay calm and follow the officer’s directions. If you try to run away or become hostile toward the officer, that can make things worse.

You do, however, have the following rights:

· The right to remain silent (if you choose not to stay silent, anything you say can be used in court against you); and

· The right to have an attorney present during questioning.

You should not say anything after you have been arrested. If the police question you without an attorney present, you should ask them to stop questioning you until you have an attorney there helping you. Do not hesitate to ask for an attorney. In Chicago, contact First Defense Legal Aid at 1-800-LAW-REP-4.

See the General Criminal Law Chapter for more discussion on criminal law and what happens if you get arrested.


What if someone sues me?

If a private individual (not a police officer or prosecutor) believes that you have done something wrong that hurts or damages them, they may try to sue you. A private action is considered a “civil” lawsuit, and is different from “criminal” proceedings. Now that you are 18, you can be sued in your own name, so you are individually responsible.

If someone files a lawsuit against you, the rules and procedures involved will vary depending on the court in which you are being sued.

If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will know the rules and procedures that apply in your case. If you choose not to hire a lawyer, then you will have to figure out which rules and procedures apply to your case and follow them closely. Unlike in a criminal proceeding, the state will not provide you with a lawyer if you cannot afford one.

When you are sued, you will have a certain amount of time in which to respond to the complaint filed by the person suing you. If you do not respond to the complaint in time, then you can face a default judgment (the court would in that case believe the complaint to be true and rule without your response). Therefore, it is important to respond to the complaint in the specified time period.

To find an attorney in your area to assist with a civil lawsuit, visit:

· www.illinoislegalaidonline.org. At the homepage, click the “Get Legal Help” button.

For more information, see the Lawsuits in General Chapter.

Can I pursue a legal claim for something that happened before I was 18? For example, I was injured or disabled before I turned 18 or I believe someone owes me money.

If you feel you have a legal claim you should consult an attorney. All legal claims are subject to a statute of limitations which means you only have a limited amount of time to pursue your claim. Until your 18th birthday, your legal right to pursue claims against others was preserved. Now that you have turned 18, your legal claims are subject to the statute of limitations (time limits) and may be lost if you wait too long.

To find an attorney in your area, visit:

· www.illinoislegalaidonline.org. At the homepage, click the “Get Legal Help” button.

For more information, see the Lawsuits in General Chapter

How do I get a lawyer?

Generally, you should look for a lawyer who has experience and/or expertise in the particular area of law applicable to your case (these are often referred to as “practice areas”). For instance, if you have trouble at your work, you will want a lawyer who specializes in employment or labor law. Once you have identified possible lawyers who have the right experience and expertise, you can contact them to set up an initial meeting to discuss whether your case has merit (could win in court), and whether that lawyer is the right lawyer for the job.

To locate legal assistance in your area, visit www.illinoislegalaidonline.org. At the homepage, click the “Get Legal Help” button.

See the Lawsuits in General Chapter for more information.

If you are facing criminal charges, you have the right to a lawyer (even if you cannot afford one) if you have been charged with a felony or if you have been charged with a misdemeanor that could possibly result in a jail or prison sentence. You may, however, choose to find and hire your own criminal defense lawyer, instead of having the court appoint one for you.

See the General Criminal Law Chapter for more information.

What if I do not like the lawyer assigned to me?

If the particular lawyer you are talking to does not have the right experience/expertise or is otherwise not able to take your case, he or she should direct you to another lawyer or resource to find an appropriate lawyer. You should not be afraid to ask for a recommendation to another lawyer.

In the event of criminal proceedings where you have been appointed an attorney by the court, you may ask the judge assigned to your case to replace that attorney if you do not like the attorney assigned to you or if you do not think that person is adequately representing you.

Government Registrations

Can I register to vote? Do I need an address to register?

Yes, once you turn 18, you may register to vote.

· You must be a U.S. citizen and be a resident of Illinois for at least 30 days in order to register to vote. This residence determines which voting precinct and which candidates are submitted for your vote.

· Even if you are homeless, you are encouraged to register to vote in the precinct in which you most recently lived.

· You must be 18 years old by election day. (You may register before your 18th birthday, if you are going to want to vote).

· You may register by mail through the State Board of Elections, at a voter registration event, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, the County Clerk or Board of Elections, or online at www.elections.il.gov.

· You must provide proof of citizenship and legal residency.

· If you were previously convicted of a crime, and have completed your sentence or community service, you are eligible to vote.

· For other voting eligibility information, see www.elections.il.gov.

· Once registered to vote, you are also eligible for jury duty.

For men only: Do I have to sign up for the draft now?

Yes, every man between the ages of 18 and 25 must register for the Selective Service (military draft) within 30 days of turning 18 years old. This includes legal and undocumented immigrants (non-U.S. citizens), refugees, and persons with disabilities.

Registering with Selective Services does not mean that you are joining the military. It only means that your name will be on a list that the military will use if it needs to quickly add more personnel in a national emergency (this is very rare).

· Registration may be done online (www.ssa.gov) or in person at a high school or nearby post office. (There is no charge or fee to register, and if you are on a website that charges a fee, you are at the wrong website!)

· If you apply for student financial aid, you may also register for the draft on that application.

· Failure to register for the draft may prevent you from receiving student financial aid, or make you ineligible for federal employment. You can also be fined for failure to register, and if you are not a U.S. citizen you may be barred from ever obtaining citizenship.

· You will need a social security number to complete this registration, although you may subsequently provide that number.

· Women are not required or permitted to register with Selective Service.


Do I have to pay taxes?

Yes, if you have income, you have to report it to the government and you have to pay taxes on it. Before you turned 18, the income you made from employment was most likely included on the tax return of your parents or foster parents. (In some cases, you may have already filed a return as an individual before age 18).

· As an adult, if you have had federal income tax withheld from any pay, you must file an annual income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service before April 15 of each year for the previous year. It is against the law to evade (not file) payment of federal taxes. There are a number of different forms to help you calculate the tax owed or refund due. Please see www.irs.gov for full details on filing your tax returns. If your parents are still supporting you financially, they can continue to claim you as a dependent after age 18.

· When you have a job, your employer will ask you to complete a W-4 form to indicate how many deductions you are eligible for. At the end of the year, that employer will provide a W-2 form to confirm how much money has been withheld from your paycheck to pay federal income tax each period. Even if the employer does not provide a W-2 form, you must report the wages you were paid.

· In addition to wages, you must report money received in other ways such as scholarships or unemployment compensation.

· You may also qualify for some deductions from the income tax, for example, for tuition or a dependent (child) of your own.

· Volunteer tax advisors are often available to help you determine which documents you need to prepare your tax return. The Center for Economic Progress (www.economicprogress.org) can provide assistance in the Chicago area or help locate a provider near you.

o Their number is 1-312-252-0280.

· You may file your federal income tax online, through the mail, or through a professional tax preparer.

· If you have not had sufficient tax withheld from your paychecks, you may have to pay income tax at this time. On the other hand, if you have had plenty of tax withheld or qualify for deductions, you may get a refund. Refunds can be sent electronically to your designated checking or savings account, or to the address or residence you list on your income tax return.

Generally, if you are required to file a federal tax return, you must also file an Illinois state tax return (Form IL-1040) if:

· You were a full or part time Illinois resident, or you earned income from an Illinois service you likely have to file a tax return in Illinois.

· You lived in more than one state during the year and earned income in those states, you will most likely have to file a tax return in each state. Illinois residents working in Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan or Wisconsin must file their tax return in Illinois and need not pay taxes in those other states.

Visit the following web pages for more information:

· Illinois Department of Revenue: http://1.usa.gov/1BwT5l3

· Center for Economic Progress: www.economicprogress.org

Being Homeless at 18

Is it against the law in Illinois to be homeless?

No, homelessness is not against the law. Illinois recently passed a Homeless Bill of Rights. The law guarantees that homeless persons have the right to:

· use and move freely in public spaces including public sidewalks, parks, transportation and buildings;

· receive equal treatment by government agencies;

· be free of discrimination from employers;

· receive emergency medical care;

· vote, register to vote, and receive documentation necessary for voting;

· have personal records and confidential information not disclosed; and

· have privacy over your personal property.

If you have questions about the Homeless Bill of Rights or if you are experiencing homelessness feel as though your rights under the law have been violated, contact the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless at 1-800-940-1119.

Despite the legal protections, there are circumstances or behaviors associated with homelessness which tend to draw attention from law enforcement officers. Thus, homeless advocates try to ensure that individuals maintain their right to free speech, safety and security of possessions.

For more information visit the following web pages:

· National Coalition for the Homeless: www.nationalhomeless.org

· Chicago Coalition for the Homeless: www.chicagohomeless.org

Is it okay to move in with friends or with friends’ parents?

Yes. It is not against the law in Illinois. However, if the friend or family is not the owner of the premises (i.e., they rent the property), it may be a violation of the terms of their lease to provide housing for you.

You and your friend should discuss and agree upfront how long you expect to stay, whether or not you will pay them “rent,” whether or not you will share food, etc.

For more information, see the Housing and Contracts Chapter.

Are there safe places to stay when homeless?

Yes. Emergency shelters provide housing for one night at a time. You usually cannot stay during the daytime.

Please see Illinois Homeless Youth Resource Guide for a listing of shelters in Illinois that specialize in serving young adults ages 18-24 years old. Some shelters provide meals, laundry and shower facilities, and counselors to assist you in finding more stable, affordable housing. Shelters usually fill up quickly. Check in early to find out what is available and when you may come in for the night. You can also dial 2-1-1 from any phone in the central and southwestern Illinois counties listed here to be connected to a comprehensive information and referral service for housing and other needs. In Chicago, individuals seeking shelter referrals should dial 3-1-1.

Most counties offer emergency, short-term, long-term and transitional housing options from the first day through about 18 months of assistance. The crisis facilities and transitional housing programs have their own eligibility requirements.

If you suddenly become homeless, you may also be able to stay with a friend or family member for a short time.

How can I take advantage of shelter and transitional housing programs for youth?

Youth ages 18-24 experiencing housing instability may qualify for shelter, housing and other services through a homeless youth program in their community. These programs (located statewide) provide services in an effort to assist homeless youth transition to independent living. The different types of homeless youth programs in Illinois are:

· Transitional housing programs which provide housing and services for up to 18 months for youth ages 16 to 24 who are not wards of the state;

· Interim shelters which provide shelter and services for up to 120 days for youth ages 18 to 24;

· Emergency overnight shelters for youth ages 18 to 24; and

· Street outreach programs and drop-in centers, which provide basic services, referrals and case management to youth ages 12 to 24.

Each program and model has different eligibility requirements and guidelines.

For more information about homeless youth programs in your community, see the Illinois Homeless Youth Resource Guide.


Can I rent a room or lease an apartment?

Yes. The lease or rental agreement is a contract. You must live by the terms of the contract, which includes paying rent on time, keeping the property safe and clean, and keeping the noise level acceptable, etc.

· If you rent a room, apartment, mobile home or house on your own, make sure you have the income to pay not only for the monthly rent, but also the security deposit, monthly utilities, extra fees (like cleaning) and parking. Before you sign a lease, make sure you know the process for terminating the lease and/or moving out.

· If you share a room or apartment with someone else, and your name is not on the contract, you may still have an oral agreement regarding rights and responsibilities.

If you have a dispute with a landlord (the owner of the property), see the following websites for more information on your rights and responsibilities:

o Illinois Attorney General, Landlord and Tenant Rights and Laws: http://illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/landlordtenantrights0404.pdf

o Illinois Tenant Union: www.tenant.org

· If you have a lease and you move out unexpectedly, without notice, or are evicted, this conduct may damage your credit record for a few years.

· You may be able to terminate a lease early if you enter the military, or if you are a victim of domestic violence, assault, stalking or other safety issues. However, you must tell the landlord in writing that you or a household member is a victim of domestic violence, or you must show evidence of a protection order obtained to protect you or a household member.

See the Housing and Contracts Chapter for more information


Can I sign a contract?

Yes. In general, as an adult (after age 18), you are legally able to sign or enter into a contract, including a lease. A contract might be an oral or written agreement. By definition, a contract is an agreement between people where each receives some benefit.

If you apply for credit and the other party does not consider you creditworthy at age 18, or you do not meet their financial qualifications (such as income), your application may be turned down. You have the right to know why your application has been rejected, and to receive a copy of your credit report if applicable.

As a minor you may have been able to get out of a contract on the basis of your age, but you can no longer get out of your responsibilities under a contract as an adult. In fact, you can be sued for failure to comply with the terms of a written contract you have signed or an oral contract.

· For housing, a lease is a contract between the landlord and tenant or lessee. If you sign a lease, you are legally bound to abide by its terms, including any requirement to pay the rent or to give notice before moving out. See the Housing and Contracts Chapter for more information.

· For a job, you may be asked to sign a contract with your Employer.

· To get a loan or financing, you may sign a loan application which serves as a contract between Lender and Borrower (to purchase a car, for example).

Under the terms of a contract, you are expected to pay in full and to pay on time. If you are sending funds online (electronic bank transfer) or sending through the mail, be sure to allow several days for delivery and processing. A payment made on the exact due date may not be processed as an on-time payment, and may subject you to late fees or penalties. The fees and penalties in turn can affect your personal credit rating. Fees and penalties can also cause a bank account to be overdrawn.

Can I get out of a contract I already signed? How?

Usually, if you signed a contract when you were a minor, you have up until a reasonable time after you turn 18 (about 2 years) to cancel the contract. If the contract is cancelled, you must return all remaining money (if applicable) and property that you received. There is no penalty for cancelling the contract. However, you cannot cancel a contract that you signed when you were a minor if:

· it was a contract for necessities, such as food or shelter;

· you lied about being over 18;

· an innocent third party would be harmed by cancelling the contract;

· you were emancipated (which means you went through formal legal proceedings where a court declared you free from the control of your parents or guardian at the time you signed the contract); or

· a parent/legal guardian signed the contract on your behalf.

There is no clear definition for what “necessities” are, but food, medicine, clothing, and shelter are usually included. A contract for shelter would be deemed a necessity; therefore, a minor may be able to sign a lease that is legally binding on both the landlord and tenant.

If you need assistance in finding a lawyer to help cancel a contract you signed when you were a minor, visit:

· www.illinoislegalaidonline.org. At the homepage, click the “Get Legal Help” button.

See the Housing and Contracts Chapter for more information.

Moving to Another State

Can I move to another state on my own once I turn 18 years old?

Yes. However, if you are receiving public benefits or social services such as SNAP benefits, TANF, Medicaid or benefits from the state as a result of having been in foster care, you may find it difficult to get those services in another state. Be careful, because you may be eligible for benefits in Illinois, but not eligible for those same benefits in another state. If you are in extended foster care you may wish to talk to your attorney/case worker about your continued eligibility for benefits and other programs before moving.

· If you have registered to vote, you will need to re-register in your new state.

· Before you move, consider establishing a mail-forwarding request with the post office. If you do not currently have a stable residential address, you might want to get a post office box, and then submit a forwarding request from there. A forwarding request is generally good for six months, and can be renewed for another six months.

· If you are traveling out of state with a friend who is under 18 years of age, you must have a document signed by that friend’s parent or guardian, and notarized, giving the friend permission to travel.

· If you have a child of your own, you must respect any court ruling regarding custody and visitation before you move.

Health and Welfare

Medical Care

Can I get medical care?

Once you turn 18, there are no restrictions on your ability to consent to health care or your ability to get health insurance. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for free health insurance:

· You are able to apply for a medical card on your own once you turn 18 even if you still live with your parents. Your parent’s income will count towards your eligibility if they claim you as a dependent or you live with them until age 19.

· If your parent or guardian claims you as a dependent, you may be eligible to be covered under their private health insurance up to the age of 26.

· If you have been in foster care until age 18, you are eligible for Medicaid until age 26 regardless of your income.

For more information on medical care and related services, see the Health Care and Medical Rights Chapter.

Public Benefits

Can I get food stamps?

Maybe. Eligibility for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is based on your income and who you prepare and eat meals with and not based on your age. Therefore, you do not gain any special eligibility by turning 18.

SNAP benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card, an electronic card accepted at most grocery stores. The Illinois Department of Human Services administers the Link Card in Illinois.

Minors under 18 under the “parental control” of any adult, even a non-relative, must be on that adult’s SNAP card. When you turn 18 you are no longer required to be on an adult’s SNAP card unless they are your parent or guardian.

If you live with a parent, you are required to be on a SNAP account with them until you reach the age of 22. This is true regardless of whether you purchase or prepare food with your parent. Your parent(s)’ income will be considered, along with your income, to determine whether the household qualifies for SNAP benefits.

If you do not live with a parent or guardian, you are not required to be on their SNAP account and their income should not be taken into account.

See the Public Benefits Chapter for more information.

Can I collect unemployment or cash assistance?

Maybe. You may be eligible to receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). It is a form of public assistance that provides temporary cash to parents and children who live together. See the Public Benefits Chapter for more information.

You may be eligible for unemployment benefits in Illinois if you meet the qualifications set forth by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. To be eligible you must:

· have earned enough money in the past 18 months; and

· have lost your job for a reason that was not your fault.

For more information on unemployment benefits, see the Employment Law Chapter.

Purchases and Credit

Can I buy a car? On credit?

Maybe. Depending on your credit history, credit score, and amount of money you have on hand to make a down payment, you may be able to buy a car on credit. For information regarding your credit history and score, see Consumer and Credit Chapter.

When you buy a car, it is important to make sure the title to the car you are buying is good and that there is no lien against the car. You can check this at the Illinois Secretary of State’s website if you have the car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You will also be required by law to obtain automobile insurance.

If you purchase a new car, the dealer will handle the title transfer for you. If you purchase a used car, you must apply for title and registration, or be subject to penalties and/or fines. To apply for a certificate of title (a document showing proof of ownership), you will need the title application, a $95 title fee, the required tax form, and a surrendered title or manufacturer’s certificate of origin signed to you by the seller.

More information on applying for title and registration can be found at the Illinois Secretary of State’s website:

· Illinois Secretary of State: http://bit.ly/1xCiUz5



Where can I work?

In general, at the age of 18, you are allowed to work in any job or profession that is not illegal for unlimited hours. However, some professions or positions have a higher minimum age, such as bartender (minimum age of 21) or Congressman/woman (minimum age of 25). Additionally, each job will have its own set of required qualifications or skills before you are hired. These may include minimum education requirements, language skills, computer skills, physical requirements (in the case of physically demanding jobs), or previous experience.

For more information, see the Employment Law Chapter.

What hours and how many hours can I work?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not limit the number of hours per day or per week that employees aged 16 years and older can be required to work. You generally may work any number of hours or at any time that you and your employer agree to in your employment contract. Once you have agreed to the employment contract, your employer will have the right to tell you within the confines of the employment contract when you will be expected to work. An employer is not required by Illinois employee rights requirements to give you paid vacation (although these rights may be granted by the employment contract).

In Illinois, all employees working a shift longer than 7.5 hours are entitled to an unpaid meal break of at least 20 minutes. If your shift is shorter than 7.5 hours, your employer is not required to give you any short breaks for rest. Employers who do allow their employees short (less than 20 minute) breaks must pay for their employees’ time during these breaks.

In Illinois employee, employers must provide reasonable breaks for an employee to use the bathroom or breastfeed as needed. If your employer will not give you adequate time to pump breast milk or use the bathroom, they are potentially violating your employment rights and you may be entitled to compensation.

For more information, see the Employment Law Chapter.

I think I am being discriminated against at work. What rights do I have?

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act an employer may not discriminate against any employee on the basis of the employee’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, citizenship status, arrest record, military status, unfavorable military discharge, sexual orientation, or disability. The law also prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or childbirth. In general, an employer cannot allow an employee’s inherent characteristics (something a person cannot change) or the fact that the employee complained about discrimination or harassment to affect decision-making about that employee.

For more information, see the Employment Law Chapter.

Can I be fired?

Generally, in Illinois, you will be an “at will” employee, meaning you can be fired for any (or no) reason at all, except for discrimination mentioned above. Common reasons for getting fired include being late, leaving work without telling anyone, absences, lack of courtesy to fellow employees or the public, failure to follow rules and regulations, lying on your employment application, and failure to perform your duties.

For more information, see the Employment Law Chapter.

Can I take a leave if I need to? Can I take a leave or vacation?

Your employer is not required to provide paid time off for holidays or vacations. Some companies do provide these benefits.

However, if you have been at your current job for at least 12 months working at least 1,250 hours, and your employer has at least 50 employees, then the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in order to (a) care for your newborn, newly fostered, or newly adopted child; (b) recover from being seriously ill; or (c) care for your child, spouse, or parent who is suffering from a serious health condition.

Under Illinois law, a woman who works for an employer with at least 50 employees is entitled to take time off for labor and delivery of a baby, and can remain on medical leave until she is released to work by her doctor.

For more information, see the Employment Law Chapter.

Military Service

Can I go into the military before age 21?

You may enlist in any branch of the military at age 17 (with consent of your parent or guardian) or age 18 (without consent of your parent or guardian) to 35, if you meet all eligibility requirements. Each branch of the military has its own requirements for enlistment, which can be found on its website and from talking with recruiters.

Note that the local laws (such as legal drinking age) where you live will still generally apply to you if you enlist in the military, unless you are in a foreign country with a Status of Forces agreement with the U.S. that modifies how the local laws are applied to you. In addition, you will be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the code of conduct and ethical standards set forth by the branch in which you enlist.


I have not finished high school yet. What are my options?

Can I stay in school?

Yes. In Illinois you may remain in high school until you turn 21 years old or complete the requirements for graduation.

· If you are homeless, the McKinney-Vento Act allows you to stay in school through grade 12, and provides transportation in certain circumstances. To learn more about your choice of schools and educational rights as a homeless student, see the Education Chapter.

· If you are in foster care, you may enroll in the Extended Foster Care program and continue in the same high school you have been in, until you graduate or receive your GED. There may also be funding for transportation to your school through the Fostering Connections Act. You may also continue with college, vocational training, or employment programs until age 21 (you can request extended foster care up until your 19th birthday). See the Foster Care Chapter for more information.

· An alternative GED program may be available through educational service districts (ESD) or community colleges in your area. A student must withdraw from the resident high school before they enroll (sometimes at a cost) in a GED program. See the Education Chapter for more information about GED programs.

· If you complete a GED program, but have not reached age 21, you may return to high school to finish the graduation requirements and receive an actual diploma.

For more information, see the Education Chapter.


Can I go to college?

Yes. You can go to college if you meet the educational and financial requirements. Note that you can apply to a two-year or even four-year public college without a high school diploma or GED certificate, if you can qualify in other ways. However, you may not be eligible for federal, state or private financial aid - scholarships or loans - if you do not have the diploma or certificate.

See http://www.isbe.state.il.us/homeless/default.htm which lists several sources of financial aid, including aid specifically for homeless or foster youth. Talk with the financial aid office of the school you would like to attend. There are counselors who can recommend and assist you in making applications for scholarships and loans.

If you sign up for financial aid, beware of predatory lending practices which encourage you to take on a large loan without guidance as to how and when to repay it. Defaulting (failing to make required payments) on a student loan can affect your personal credit rating and hinder your applications for employment, housing, and other financial benefits.

To learn more about college and financial aid, see the Education Chapter.

Marriage and Family

Marriage and Family

Can I get married?

You may get married to anyone who is at least 18 years old, who is not a blood relative, and who is not already currently married to someone else. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you can apply for a marriage license with the consent of your parents or guardian. As of June 1, 2014, same sex couples are able to marry in the State of Illinois so long as they meet the other criteria listed above.

For the marriage to be legally recognized in Illinois, you must get a marriage license. Marriage licenses are available from a county clerk’s office.

What if I get pregnant?

If you are a pregnant adult, you also have the right to marry if you meet the eligibility requirements. If you are pregnant and homeless or low income, you may qualify for healthcare, housing, and other benefits during the term of your pregnancy and for a certain period of time after the birth of your child.

See the Public Benefits Chapter and the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter for more information.

If you are pregnant and have not finished your high school education, you may attend your high school, an alternative high school, or a GED program at the community college. If you are pregnant and working, you cannot be terminated because of your pregnancy, but in some circumstances you can be terminated if you are unable to do your work.

I am the father of a child. What rights and obligations do I have?

If you are the father of a child and you are not married to the child’s mother but live in the same residence as the child for the first two years and acknowledge the child as yours, you are considered the presumed parent.

If you do not live with the mother, she will be considered the sole parent of the child, unless you become legally acknowledged as the father.  If you wish to be legally acknowledged as the father of the child, you must:

Once you are legally acknowledged as the father of the child, you can request visitation or seek full or partial custody of the child. You will also be responsible for supporting the child financially through child support. It is a good idea to consult a lawyer before signing any papers related to paternity.

For additional resources on paternity rights and obligations, see:

· Illinois Child Support Services website: www.childsupportillinois.com.

For more information see the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.

I am the mother of a child. What rights and obligations do I have?

If you are the mother of a child, you are considered the sole parent unless you are married to the father or the father of the child has:

· signed the birth certificate;

· signed a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form; or

· filed for paternity and received a paternity order.

You have the responsibility to protect your child from any abusive situation, whether abuse derives from the father or someone else. You have the right to collect child support and arrange a custody schedule for your child. You need to have the paternity confirmed either by a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form or a paternity order from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services or a court, before you can apply for child support. For more information regarding registering for child support, visit the Illinois Child Support Services website at www.childsupportillinois.com.

Custody or visitation rights may be withdrawn or curtailed by the court based on neglect or abandonment, or if the parent has perpetrated abuse or a crime.

If you are the parent of a school-age child, your child has the right to an education up through completion of high school.

For more information see the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.


What is statutory rape?

Statutory rape is a criminal offense involves having sex with a minor. Each state has a different set of rules regarding statutory rape, but it is important to note that in all states consent does not matter. You can be found guilty of statutory rape even if both people wanted to engage in sex. You can also be found guilty even if you made an honest mistake about the other person’s age. Sex acts other than intercourse may be statutory rape.

In Illinois, the age of consent is 17, so consensual sex involving any participant who is under 17 years of age will be considered statutory rape.

For additional information on state laws on statutory rape, go to:

· U.S. Department of Human Services: http://1.usa.gov/1AqUsjC

If you are convicted of statutory rape, you may be sent to jail and have to register as a sex offender. See the General Criminal Law Chapter for more information.

Identity Considerations

Native Americans

Are there special laws for American Indian tribes?

Yes, if you go to or live on an Indian reservation. However, there are no Indian reservations in Illinois. If you move out of the state to live on an Indian reservation, you will generally be subject to the laws of the tribe. See section below about trouble on an Indian reservation. If you are a member of a tribe and are pregnant, there are special services available to assist the mother and child within the tribal culture.

Are there special laws on tribal properties?

Tribal police have the authority to arrest you if they believe you have committed a crime on tribal land. Where your case will be heard depends on the type of crime (major or non-major) and your status (a tribe member, a non-tribe member Native American, or a non-Native American).

Major crimes include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, maiming, some sexual crimes, incest, some assaults, burglary, robbery, arson, and embezzlement. There are different jurisdictions for crimes on tribal properties, depending on whether the perpetrator or victim is a member of the tribe.

I came from another country. Can I still stay in the United States if I move out of my family’s home?

Possibly. See the Immigration Chapter for more information.

I identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. What support is there for me?

Identification Documents

Personal documents to gather and maintain

· Birth certificate

· Social security card

· Illinois State identification card or Illinois State driver’s license

· Immunization records

· Health and education records

· Passport (if you travel outside of the United States)

See the Identification Chapter for more information about obtaining these documents.