In the United States, you have to be at least 18 years old to enter into a contract. People who enter into any contracts before that age can cancel or disaffirm those contracts, based a doctrine known as the “defense of infancy.”
This principle protects people from entering into financial relationships while they are minors and not equipped to consider the relevant options or appreciate the importance of their decisions.
The defense of infancy is fundamental to contract law and borrows from the centuries-old doctrine doli incapax. It is firmly ingrained in nearly all aspects of our legal system and governs how both private parties and government entities interact with minors.
There is, however, one notable exception: federal student loans.
Although you have to be 18 to get a credit card, buy a house or purchase a car, that rule does not hold for federal student loans. This exception comes from 1992 amendments to the Higher Education Act, which eliminate the defense of infancy for minors who sign a promissory note for federal student loans.
If you signed for a federal student loan before you were 18, you won’t be able to cancel the loan by asserting the defense of infancy.