A FEW THOUGHTS ON DISABILITIES OF MINORITY

February 27, 2013 § 4 Comments

In a case before me recently, one of the lawyers filed a motion to set aside an agreed judgment executed by a nineteen-year-old woman by which she had agreed that the father of her child could have custody. The lawyer argued that she was incompetent by virtue of her age to execute and be bound by such a judgment. The motion got me thinking that maybe a few thoughts about disabilities of minority would be in order.

  • MCA 93-19-13 provides that all persons 18 years of age or older “shall have the capacity to enter into binding contractual relationships affecting personal property,” unless otherwise disqualified or prohibited by law. It goes on to allow persons 18 or older to sue or be sued in their own right over such contracts.
  • “We therefore hold section 93-19-13, (Supp. 1980) effectively removes the disability of minority of all persons 18 years or older for the purpose of entering into contracts affecting personal property including the right to settle a claim for personal injuries, to execute a contract settling the claim, and to accept money in settlement of the claim.” Garrett v. Gay, 394 So.2d 321, 322-23 (Miss. 1981). 
  • Garrett also stated that an 18-or-older minor has the right to deal with his or her own choses in action, which “is the right of bringing an action, or a right to recover debt or money, or a right of proceeding in a court of law to procure the payment of a sum of money, or a right to recover a personal chattel or a sum of money by action, or, as it is defined by statute, a right to recover money or personal property by a judicial proceeding.” 
  • The statute pertains to personal property rights only, and does not extend to real estate. MCA 93-19-1 provides for removal of disabilities of minority to authorize the minor “to sell and convey, to mortgage, to lease, and to make deeds of trust and contracts, including promissory notes,” with respect to his or her interest as effectively as if he or she were 21 years or older.
  • MCA 93-19-13 provides that a married  minor (Note: MCA 1-3-27 defines “minor” as a person under the age of 21) is under no disability with respect to bringing or defending a divorce or separate maintenance action, child support and custody and any other marital issues between the parties. The statute specifies “married” minors, and would not appear to embrace unmarried minors.
  • MCA 93-5-9 essentially mirrors 93-19-13.
  • Minors may not vote. Article 12, Section 241, Mississippi Constitution, except as provided in the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • Minors may not waive process. Rule 4(e), MRCP.
  • Minors may not select their own domicile, but must have that of the parents. Boyle vs. Griffin, 84 Miss.41, 36 So. 141, 142 (Miss. 1904); In re Guardianship of Watson, 317 So.2d 30, 32 (Miss. 1975); Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians vs. Holyfield, 490 U.S. 30, 40; 109 S.Ct. 1597, 1603 (1989).
  •  Minors may not enter into binding contracts regarding personal property or sue or be sued in their own right in regard to contracts into which they have entered. Section 93-19-13, MCA.
  • Minors may not have an interest in an estate without having a guardian appointed for them. Section 93-13-13, MCA.
  • Minors may not be bound by contracts for the sale of land, and may void them at their option. Edmunds vs. Mister, 58 Miss. 765 (1881).
  • Minors may not choose the parent with whom they shall live in a divorce or modification; although they may state a preference, their choice is not binding on the Chancellor. Section 93-11-65, MCA; Westbrook vs Oglesbee, 606 So.2d 1142, 1146 (Miss. 1992); Bell vs. Bell, 572 So.2d 841, 846 (Miss. 1990).
  • Minors may not after emancipation be bound by or enforce contracts entered into during minority except by following certain statutory procedures. Section 15-3-11, MCA.
  • Minors may not legally consent to have sexual intercourse. Section 97-3-65(b).
  • Minors may not legally consent to be fondled. Section 97-5-23(1).
  • Minors are protected by an extended statute of limitations. Section 15-1-59, MCA.

There may be more, and I have not gone back and checked all of the authority above. Before using any of this, be sure to verify the citations and what they say.

WHAT IS THE EXTENT OF THE DISABILITIES OF MINORITY?

October 17, 2011 § 3 Comments

Minors can not act for themselves. We call this the “disability of minority,” and the chancery court is charged with protecting their rights. Alack vs. Phelps, 230 So. 2d 789, 793 (Miss. 1970).

The principle of minority disability is in keeping with the ancient maxim of equity that “When parties are disabled equity will act for them.” Griffith, Mississippi Chancery Practice, Section 34, page 37 (1950 ed.). More than 130 years ago, in the case of Price vs. Crone, 1871 WL 8417, at 3 (1870), the Mississippi Supreme Court stated:

“Nothing is taken as confessed or waived by the minor or her guardian. The court must look to the record and all its parts, to see that a case is made which will warrant a decree to bind and conclude [the minor’s] interest, and of its own motion, give the minor the benefit of all objections and exceptions, as fully as if specially made in pleading … There being no power in the infant to waive anything, a valid decree could not be made against her, unless there has been substantial compliance with the requirements of the law, in the essential matters.”  [Emphasis added]

Thus, the chancery court can and should act on its own initiative to protect and defend the minor’s interest.

In the case of Khoury vs. Saik, 203 Miss. 155, 33 So.2d 616, 618 (Miss. 1948), the supreme court held that, “Minors can waive nothing. In the law they are helpless, so much so that their representatives can waive nothing for them …” This is so even where the minor has pled, appeared in court, and even testified.” Parker vs. Smith, et al., 150 Miss. 849, 117 So. 249, 250 (Miss. 1928).

Our modern MRCP 4(e) embodies these concepts wherein it specifically states that, “Any party … who is not an unmarried minor … may … waive service of process or enter his or her appearance … in any action, with the same effect as if he or she had been duly served with process, in the manner required by law on the day of the ate thereof.” There is no provision in MRCP 4 that permits a minor to join in an action on his or her own initiative, or to waive process; in fact, the express language of Rule 4 makes it clear that such is not permitted.

It is a long-held fundamental of Mississippi law that process must be had on infants in the form and manner require by law, and a decree rendered against minors without service in the form and manner required by law is void as to them, as they can not waive process. Carter vs. Graves, 230 Miss. 463, 470, 93 So.2d 177, 180 (Miss. 1957).

The purpose of the protective posture of the law is clear: “Minors are considered incapable of making such decisions because of their lack of emotional and intellectual maturity.”  Dissent of Presiding Justice McRae in J.M.M. vs. New Beginnings of Tupelo, 796 So.2d 975, 984 (Miss. 2001). During the formative adolescent years, minors often lack the experience, perspective and judgment required to recognize and avoid choices that are not in their best interest. Belotti vs. Baird, 443 U.S. 622, 634, 99 S.Ct. 3035, 3043 (1979).

In the case of In the Matter of R.B., a Minor, by and through Her Next Friend, V.D. vs. State of Mississippi, 790 So.2d 830 (Miss. 2001), R.B., an unmarried, seventeen-year-old minor, became pregnant and sought chancery court approval of an abortion, pursuant to MCA § 41-41-55(4). The decision described her as, ” … of limited education, having attended school through the eighth grade,” and largely ignorant of the medical and legal implications of her request. Id., at 831. The decision reveals that the chancellor went to great pains to develop the record that the young girl had not been informed of the possible complications of the surgical procedure, that she was emotionally fragile and susceptible to mental harm, that there were services available to the youngster of which she was unaware, and other pertinent factors. Id., at 834. The supreme court upheld the decision of the chancellor, saying,

“R.B. has failed to persuade us that she is mature enough to handle the decision (for an abortion) on her own. The record does not indicate that the minor is capable of reasoned decision-making and that she has considered her various options. Rather the decision shows that R.B.’s decision is the product of impulse.” Id., at 834.

It has long been the law in Mississippi that all who deal with minors deal with them at their peril, since the law will take extraordinary measures to guard them against their own incapacity.

The principle of minority disability is ingrained in many facets of Mississippi law:

  • Minors may not vote. Article 12, Section 241, Mississippi Constitution.
  • Minors may not waive process. MRCP 4(e).
  • Minors may not select their own domicile, but must have that of the parents. Boyle vs. Griffin, , 84 Miss.41, 36 So. 141, 142 (Miss. 1904); In re Guardianship of Watson, , 317 So.2d 30, 32 (Miss. 1975); MississippiBand of Choctaw Indians vs. Holyfield,  490 U.S. 30, 40; 109 S.Ct. 1597, 1603 (1989).
  • Minors may not enter into binding contracts regarding personal property or sue or be sued in their own right in regard to contracts into which they have entered. MCA § 93-19-13.
  • Minors may not have an interest in an estate without having a guardian appointed for them. MCA § 93-13-13.
  • Minors may not purchase or sell real property, or mortgage it, or lease it, or make deeds of trust or contracts with respect to it, or make promissory notes with respect to interests in real property without first having his or her disabilities of minority removed. MCA § 93-19-1.
  • Minors may not be bound by contracts for the sale of land, and may void them at their option.Edmunds vs. Mister, 58 Miss. 765 (1881).
  • Minors may not choose the parent with whom they shall live in a divorce or modification; although they may state a preference, their choice is not binding on the chancellor. MCA § 93-11-65; Westbrook vs Oglesbee,606 So.2d 1142, 1146 (Miss. 1992); Bell vs. Bell, 572 So.2d 841, 846 (Miss. 1990). Minors may not after emancipation be bound by or enforce contracts entered into during minority except by following certain statutory procedures. MCA § 15-3-11.
  • Minors may not legally consent to have sexual intercourse. MCA § 97-3-65(b).
  • Minors may not legally consent to be fondled. MCA § 97-5-23(1).
  • Minors are protected by an extended statute of limitations. MCA § 15-1-59.

It’s important to be aware of the legal status of the persons with whom you are dealing in land transactions, estates, contracts, and many other legal matters.  In Mississippi, minors have many legal protections and disabilities that the courts will zealously guard.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with disabilities of minority at The Better Chancery Practice Blog.