Q: Can my parents legally keep my money after I move out?
My mom started a savings account for me when I first started working and has been taking all of not most of my paycheck (against my will) and putting it in the savings account. Now that I’m 18 and moving out she still refuses to give me the money saved up under the grounds of “I don’t trust you with your money”... I have no access to the savings account as it is under her name and she will not give me any of the account info... can she do this even though I’m going to be gone in a couple days and what can I do to get the money back?
A: Wages earned while a minor may be controlled by a parent. Obtaining the age of majority does not change the nature of those wages any more than it truly makes one an adult other than in the eyes of the legal system. Children are extremely rarely able to earn a wage which could contribute more than their expense to the family economy. You guys are not cheap to get from zero to 18 years. It is almost certainly wise for your mother not to trust you with the money. Few 18 year-old barely adults have the common sense to manage their own finances. I would imagine if you demonstrate some maturity and approach your mother with reasonable requests for assistance out of your childhood earnings she would be much more likely to comply than continuing to childishly demand "your" money.
If you have not already committed to moving out, you could truly demonstrate your maturity level by living at home until you save up enough money that you are not stomping your feet about those childhood earnings she is holding for you. Everyone wants to be independent until they get out in the real world and realize how difficult and expensive that independence can be.
A: An astute reader contacted me to point out that I do not have all the information to properly guide you, young person. She is correct. That is one of the hazards of this means of obtaining legal advice and why the attorneys who answer are constantly suggesting that the posters should obtain individualized legal advice from a local attorney skilled in the area of law concerning their question.
So here is my additional advice: in a few days, when you turn 18, you will have the right to sue in small claims court (unless the amount your mother is retaining is much larger than I am guessing - over $10,000). I handle lawsuits where a parent is suing a child or vice versa; they are always tragic. If the relationship between you and your mother is already damaged beyond repair and you really need the money, small claims is an avenue available to you. If the amount is, in fact, much larger than I believe, then you should speak with an attorney on or after your 18th birthday and discuss a contingency fee arrangement. Under a contingency arrangement, an attorney may be willing to take your case with no money paid up front, but the promise of a percentage of the money awarded by the court should you win your case.
I sincerely hope your relationship with your mother is not so damaged you decide to file suit, but, because I promised to amend my answer with additional guidance should you be one of those outliers for whom a suit may be your best option, I have provided the information above. I wish you luck and remind you to not be in too big a hurry to grow up. You have the rest of your life to "adult."
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