|A contract isn't always legally binding|
Minors, Collection Agencies and Contracts
In most states, minors cannot be held responsible for contracts they sign because a minor is not legally capable of entering into a binding contract. Let's look at this in regards to credit card debt.
This isn't to say that Judy won't have a fight on her hands. The collection agency does not want to be told that it can't collect and will go out of its way to make sure that Judy pays. Judy's parents will likely need to hire an attorney to draft a letter to the collection agency notifying it that continued collection activity is against the law.
Adult Co-Signers Responsible for Minor's Debts
|Parents are generally responsible for teens' debts|
Emancipated Minors and Debt Collection
A minor can gain the ability to enter into a legally binding contract by becoming emancipated. Emancipated minors have all the rights and responsibilities of a legal adult. If Judy was an emancipated minor, she would have the ability to sign a binding contract with a creditor without having a co-signer. Because an emancipated minor is bound just as tightly to the contracts she signs as an adult, a collection agency can pursue the individual for payment using the same methods it uses to collect from adults.
Voidable Contracts for Minors
Now, here's where things get slightly complicated. Remember when I said minors can't enter into binding contracts? That the technical side of things. The contract isn't technically void until its voided by the minor. It's simpler than it sounds. Lets look at the example from a different angle:
This does not mean that the credit card company won't still pursue Judy for what she owes. It will, but it will likely wait until Judy turns 18 to do so.
All of this comes into play because the credit card company knew that Judy was 16 when she applied for the card. Had she lied about her age and claimed to be 18, the situation gets more complex. State laws vary, but lying to a creditor in order to obtain an account as a minor is a clear case of fraud. In that situation, a creditor or collection agency would likely be able to pursue the cardholder for payment regardless of whether or not the debtor is a minor.