Don't Get Locked Out of Your Children's Decision Making When They Turn 18

Lauren Merritt

by Lauren Merritt

Lauren Merritt is a Pensacola native and is licensed in both Florida and Alabama. Lauren has her own law practice located in the offices of My Pink Lawyer® and is an affiliated independent counsel. Lauren is a newlywed with three bonus daughters and a newly adopted baby son. Lauren enjoys running, going to the gym, crafting with the girls, dining out, and relaxing at home with her new family.

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Matt and I were thrilled to move into our new home a few weeks ago. I think we both forgot how much work moving can be.


Most of the boxes are now unpacked, the pictures are hung, and we’ve finally been able to start settling into our new space.


Matt’s girls are loving the new house and their new rooms too… especially the fact that we can walk to a nearby park and the horse shows at the Equestrian Center right from our backyard.


That’s exactly what we were doing this past Sunday.

Our rescue lab, Piper, was sad to be left behind as we all walked out the back door to head towards the Equestrian Center and the park.


Sadly, the horse show had already ended for the day. At least, we’d been able to catch some of it on Saturday, when we learned about the “jumpers” and the “hunters” in competitions.


We took a stroll around some trails behind the Equestrian Center and decided to head back to the house for the girls to work on some volleyball skills for the tryouts they have coming up next week.


I was the first one to the backdoor.


It was locked.


“That’s weird,” I thought. One of us must have accidentally locked the door on our way out.


But the doorknob wasn’t locked. It was the deadbolt.


It’s impossible to lock the deadbolt from the outside without a key.


None of us had locked the door.



Someone had locked the door... from inside the house... while we were outside.


Matthew used his garage door opener to open the garage and try to get inside the house through the garage entry.




Next, he tried the front door. The front door… was unlocked.


Just as Matthew unlocked the back door for us, panic washed over his face.


“Stay out here! I’m going to check the house.”


Ok. Now I was frightened!


Before I could ask if he had heard anything, he was cautiously darting between each room in the house to check for intruders.


Perplexed, he returned to the back door to report the house was clear.


A cursory review of the house revealed nothing missing or out of place…


and only one suspect:



 Dog Photo

I emulated a dog jumping up and pawing at the back door (are you laughing yet?).


Sure enough. Hitting the top lock just right and ever so slightly knocked the deadbolt into the locked position we found it in.


It turns out we did not have a burglar after all- just a pup who really wanted to join us for our walk!


Phew! What a relief!


It’s not often you can say your dog locked you out of the house. Hopefully that will be a first and a last for us.


When I work with parents of children who have developmental disabilities we talk about being essentially “locked out” from helping with their child’s medical, educational, financial, and legal needs when their child turns 18 if they do not take proactive measures to preserve those rights.


When a child reaches the age of 18, the law recognizes that person as a legal adult, regardless of whether the child will require assistance with the simple tasks of daily living indefinitely.


Florida courts can appoint a Guardian Advocate to continue making educational, medical, financial, and legal decisions on behalf of the child even after the child turns 18. A Guardian Advocacy proceeding gives each family the tools they need to oversee their child’s care indefinitely.


To learn more about Guardian Advocacy, CLICK to download our free GUARDIAN ADVOCACY REPORT: How to Support Your Special Needs Child Without Losing the Right to Make Medical, Educational, Financial, or Legal Decisions.

If you have questions about Guardian Advocacy, send me an email me at or call our office at (850) 741-2999 to schedule your consultation today.


Lauren "Helping Parents Not Get Locked Out" Merritt


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