I think all adults can agree that kids and most teens do not have an adult sense of judgment. It might make sense to someone under 18 to buy that really cool car for double what it’s worth. Montana protects them from unfair contracts. Kind of.

A Montana statute, MCA 28-2-201, states that most contracts with minors, defined as those under 18 years old, are invalid – but it’s not as drastic as it sounds. First of all, there are two rarely invoked exceptions to the statute prohibiting contracts with minors. The first is MCA 41-1-305, which provides that a contract for “necessities” such as food and housing is valid. The second is MCA 41-1-303, which provides that a contract to borrow money for education is also valid.

So someone under 18 can’t buy a fishing pole? No. There are major exceptions to the statute banning contracts with minors in addition to the “necessities” and education exceptions. The big one is ratification of the contract by conduct. In the fishing pole example, that would mean the minor paid for it and used it. Another related exception is that a minor’s failure to disavow the contract within a reasonable time means the agreement is valid. In the fishing pole example, that would mean the minor didn’t return the pole.

Court cases challenging the validity of a contract with a minor are extremely rare. Most merchants simply won’t sell to minors, which is why most websites and other terms of sale say something like, “Must be over 18 to purchase.” The law against contracts with minors seems to be an interesting legal issue that rarely comes up in real life.

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