This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
The legislature, under most American constitutions, has full power to modify the Common Law rules of the capacity of infants as far as concerns transactions after the passage of the statute. Where special legislation is forbidden, special statutes affecting capacity are, of course, unconstitutional.1 Without a clause in the constitution forbidding special legislation, an infant's disabilities may be removed by special statute.2 The statutes affecting the Common Law rules as to the incapacity of minors are of several kinds, three of which will be noticed here. First, in many states the age at which majority is reached has been changed, the most common modification being the reduction of the age of majority in females to eighteen.3 In North Dakota a contract of an infant over eighteen is subject to his right to disaffirm within one year. If not so disaffirmed is as valid as if he were an adult.4 Second, certain statutes provide that by a proceeding in a designated court the disabilities of a minor may be removed.5 The general effect of these statutes is the same, though there is some variance in the details. The record must son's Admr., 1 Bibb. 330; Mason v. Wright, 13 Met. (Mass.) 306; Tyler v. Gallop, 68 Mich. 185; 13 Am. St. Rep. 336; 35 N. W. 902; Gene-reux v. Sibley, 18 R. I. 43; 25 Atl. 345; Person v. Chase, 37 Vt. 647; 88 Am. Dec. 630. The effect of emancipation is "to enable him to make contracts for his own services and to apply his wages to the support of his family, otherwise it does not enlarge his power to contract, so that he is bound by his contracts except for actual necessities." Burns v. Smith, 29 Ind. App. 181. 184; 64 N. E. 94.
1State ex rel. Lamson v. Baker, 25 Fla. 598; 6 So. 445.
2 Collins v. Park, 93 Ky. 6; 18 S. W. 1013.
3 Rowland v. McGuire, 64 Ark. 412; 42 S. W. 1068; Stevenson v. Westfall. 18 111. 209; Cogel v. Ralph, 24 Minn. 194; Sparhawk v. Buell, 9 Vt. 41.
4 Luce v. Jestrab, - N. D. -; 97 N. W. 848.
5 Wilkinson v. Buster, 124 Ala. 574; 26 So. 940; Cox v. Johnson, 80 Ala. 22: Hindman v. O'Connor, 54 Ark. 627; 13 L. R. A. 490; 16 S. W. 1052; Cooper v. Rhodes. 30 La. Ann. 533; Brown v. Wheelock, 75 Tex 385; 12 S. W. Ill, 841.
show that the minor resides in the county where the application is made or the decree removing the disabilities is void.6 After the decree is made, it is valid in the county where made, and in other counties where a certified copy of the decree is filed.7 Since the statute authorizing the removal of the disabilities of a minor applies to those who are capable of managing their own business, an order of court removing the disabilities of a minor of fourteen is void.8 Since an infant over eighteen whose disabilities have thus been removed may bind himself by his undertakings, he may take the bar examination.9 While these statutes need not provide for notice of the application,10 yet such formalities as they require must be complied with.11 Third, other statutes remove the disability of the infant as to certain kinds of contracts. Thus in Georgia an infant who engages in business with the consent of his guardian may bind himself by contract for his business debts,12 even if such contract is made with such guardian after he is discharged from his trust.13 In Texas the marriage settlements of minors are binding, but this does not operate to make other contracts binding.14 In Iowa an infant who by reason of his engaging in business causes the other party to believe that he is an adult is liable on his contracts. This statute, however, does not apply to an infant who purchases realty while working as a farm-hand, such acts not constituting an "engaging in business."15