The Negative Consequences of
Being a Helicopter Parent

Once your child becomes an adult, it's time to let go.

The school year is over 3/4 of the way finished! Your child is in his senior year of high school and before you know it, high school graduation is just around the corner. Once your child walks that stage and receives his or her high school diploma from the principal, it's off to college for freshman year!

NOTE: The following is not to be considered as legal advice. Please see an attorney who is licensed by the Florida Bar (or the bar in your own state) if you need legal advice; most attorneys will give you a consultation regarding your legal issue from a half hour to an hour for a small or no fee.

It's amazing to see twelve years of your child's education fly by so fast from the day your child started Kindergarten. Then elementary school. Then middle school. And then the four years of high school leading up to that big day for your child.

However, do you know what happens when your child turns 18 years old? Here in Florida, turning 18 is considered reaching the age of majority, or in other words, becoming an adult. As such, the legal landscape changes for your child once he or she turns 18 such as:

  • The right to register to vote.
  • The requirement to register for Selective Service, if male.
  • The ability to enter into contracts.
  • The right to sue and be sued.
  • Any criminal offenses committed are tried in adult court.
  • The right to choose where one is employed.
  • The right to own and manage property.
  • No parental consent needed for a Florida driver's license or a US Passport.
  • The right to self-determination including the right to make his or her own decisions.
  • The right to join the United States Armed Forces.

And the list goes on and on...

However, there is one minor detail which someone who turns 18 does not get yet, and that is the right to purchase alcoholic beverages. That does not come until 21.

With that said, there is a growing phenomenon that has been going around involving parents whose children are in college, and that is being a helicopter parent. I know, you as a parent are worried about your child's welfare now that he or she is in college, but once your child becomes a legal adult what you can do is very limited. When your child reaches 18 years of age, you as a parent lose:

  • The right to view your child's medical records.
  • The right to view your child's school records, both K-12 and college.
  • The right to discuss your child's progress while in college.
  • The right to make and oversee your child's medical decisions.
  • The right to determine where your child will live.
  • The right to control your child's daily activities as you see fit.

And the list goes on and on...

A Textbook Example of Helicopter Parenting Gone Wrong: Aubrey Ireland

In fact, there is a negative consequence of being a helicopter parent: Being the recipient of a restraining order which can have potentially devastating effects on your future. Just ask the parents of Aubrey Ireland, who attended the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music, according to this Huffington Post article.

In the Huffington Post article Aubrey was doing great in college, even making the dean's list. Until trouble brewed on the horizon: Aubrey's parents would routinely drive 600 miles from Kansas to Ohio for the purpose of unannounced visits to the school. The parents went so far as installing monitoring software to track Aubrey's whereabouts, then saying that Aubrey has a mental illness. In essence, an electronic monitoring device according to the article.

It got so bad that the college had to hire security for the purpose of keeping Aubrey's parents off campus. Once this happened the tuition payments were cut off; in response the University of Cincinnati gave Aubrey a scholarship for her senior year. Finally, a restrainng order was granted against Aubrey's parents that prevented them from attending graduation ceremonies among other things, not to mention keeping a 500 feet distance from Aubrey anywhere she went, all according to the Huffington Post article.

The negative effects of being on the receiving end of a restraining order:

  • Inability to own or possess firearms or ammunition (your name goes into the FBI's National Instant Background Check System (NICS), via the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) if the restraining order is issued in Florida. Other states either report through their respective state law enforcement agencies or directly to the FBI.
  • The Injunction for Protection (restraining order) is public record, and can be looked up by any law enforcement officer especially during a traffic stop
  • The Injunction for Protection (restraining order) is enforceable nationwide, thanks to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, Article 4 Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States as well as Section 2265 of Title 18 of the United States Code
  • Loss of employment opportunities if the employer conducts a background check and an active restraining order against you is found
  • Loss of volunteer opportunities if the organization conducts a background check and an active restraining order against you is found
  • Being terminated from employment or a volunteer opportunity if an active restraining order against you is found
  • Being not allowed to live in an apartment or condominium community, especially if a background check is conducted and the active restraining order is found

And the list goes on and on...

Guardianship for Children about to become Adults with Special Needs

What if your child graduating from high school and turning 18 has special needs? That's a good question!

If you are worried about your child's future once he or she turns 18, the only way you can be involved in your child's affairs as far as the legal world is involved is to petition the Probate Court for guardianship of your child once he or she turns 18. There are two ways to approach this, but be prepared for the major expense of an attorney. There are two approaches to guardianship for your child with special needs once he or she turns 18.

The following on guardian advocate and guardianship is Florida specific. If you are reading this in another state such as Georgia, check your state's laws as well as consult with an attorney.

Guardianship Advocate, Chapter 393 of the Florida Statutes

The first approach is to petition the courts for a guardian advocate, which is outlined in Chapter 393 of the Florida Statutes. This is the only type of guardianship that you do not need an attorney for, but to me dealing with the probate court on your own is penny wise and pound foolish. Florida's guardian advocate laws in Chapter 393 and guardianship in Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes are quite complex similar to navigating Interstate 275 through downtown Tampa during the morning and evening commutes. For this reason alone you need an attorney to guide you through the legal labyrinth.

There are specific criteria that has to be met for a guardian advocate petition. First, your child has to have one of the disabilities enumerated in Section 393.063 (12) of the Florida Statutes: Intellectual Disability (IQ less than 70), Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Spina Bifida, Downs Syndrome, Phelan-McDermid Syndrome or Prader-Willi Syndrome which manifested before the age of 18 and the disability is expected to continue indefinitely.

What you need to do is to regularly consult with your child's primary pediatrician. As your child gets closer to 18, your child's pediatrician may send you to or you may already be working with a psychiatrist. Whatever you do, make sure you have paperwork - medical records including treatment and assessment records. Also regularly consult with your child's school officials including the counselor, the teachers and the principal and be sure you have school related disability paperwork such as your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

While we're on the subject of school officials, there are some principals or professional staff out there that will tell you that guardianship of your special needs child is easy to get, just file paperwork with the Clerk of the Court and pay a filing fee. This is way far from the truth! Your child's school officials don't know that even a guardian advocate requires a court hearing among other things - again, never attempt a guardian advocate action in court on your own without an attorney helping you.

When finding an attorney, make sure you have an attorney that specializes in Florida's guardianship advocate law for your special needs child pursuant to Chapter 393, not one that specializes in elder guardianship under Chapter 744. File the wrong type of guardianship and before you know it a professional guardian will take over everything regarding your special needs child - in other words, you can kiss your parental relationship to your child goodbye.

The good news regarding a guardian advocate is that your child is not adjudicated incompetent unlike a Chapter 744 guardianship. Most Clerks of Court will allow you to begin the process when your child is 17.5 years of age; this usually allows for the proceedings to be completed prior to your child turning 18. Check with your attorney for specifics.

Again, never attempt a guardianship advocate in Chapter 393 of the Florida Statutes without the assistance of an attorney. The staff in the Clerk of the Court's office are NOT authorized to give legal advice nor assist you in filling out the paperwork for petitioning the court for a guardian advocate.

Guardianship, Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes

The second approach is to pursue a Chapter 744 guardianship if your child does not meet the criteria in Section 393.063 (12). Under no circumstances should you attempt this kind of a guardianship petition on your child and only under the supervision of an attorney. In fact, only attorneys are allowed to file Chapter 744 petitions for guardianship and you have to have the right attorney who knows both Chapters 744 and 393 and for you as a parent to be appointed as guardian over your child when he or she turns 18, not some total stranger professional guardian you nor your child knows.

Besides, the procedures are very difficult when guardianship involves someone very young as opposed to someone who is elderly (which is why Florida's guardianship laws are not equal) and an attorney - preferably an attorney who has Florida Bar certification in Probate Law and who knows the difference between a guardian and a guardian advocate - is required, which can run into the thousands of dollars. Then again, a total stranger working as a professional guardian can step in and exploit a loophole, finding a background issue with the parents in order to convince the court that the parents are not fit to be the proposed guardian.

In short: Your special needs child you raised and nurtured over the years is being taken away by a total stranger and is being warehoused in an assisted living facility, a group home or, worse yet, a nursing home. That total stranger - a/k/a professional guardian - keeps you in the dark by having a restraining order placed against you that bans you from visiting your child.

Why you should never be a Helicopter Parent in the first place

It's normal to worry about your children when they are off to college. However, there are limits as to what you can do for your children as far as parental involvement is concerned. Don't let what happened to Aubrey Ireland's parents happen to you.

Besides, there is no need to be a helicopter parent in the first place. Ever. Your child is now an adult, and there is a time when you have to let go.