I have a debit card in my name. Can my parents take it?

I’m assuming that this question comes from someone who is a minor child (i.e., someone who is under the age of 18 and not a legally recognized adult or legally emancipated). 

This is a tough question that depends on the laws of the jurisdiction where each particular minor child is. You’ll need to check the laws in your particular jurisdiction to be sure (even then, there may be no conclusive consensus). 

Generally speaking: 

  • minor children have individual right to own property separately from their parents. 
    • Some parents think that any property a child acquires by purchase or gift is the property of the parent until the child becomes an adult. Some parents think that they own their minor children’s property until the child becomes an adult. This is not true. 
  • It appears to me that most jurisdictions take the position that unless a particular statute or court order provides otherwise, a parent can control his/her minor child’s property. 
    • While parents generally have a right to control and even spend a minor child’s income, parents do not have the right to use a child’s own property (such as a car that the minor child purchased with his/her own money) without that child’s permission.
  • So a parent cannot sell or destroy or drive a minor child’s own car, if the child does not grant the parent permission to sell or destroy or drive the child’s car. The parent can, however, control the child’s use of the child’s own car (for example, the parent could prohibit the child from driving the child’s own car, even if the car was fully licensed and registered and insured).

Unless there are specific laws in your jurisdiction that address this matter, then it appears to me that the general legal principle is: yes, your parent(s) can take your debit card away from you. If your parent(s) take your debit card away from you, they must ensure that they do not lose it, damage it, allow it to be damaged, or destroy it or allow it to be destroyed. 

So if you make your parents aware of the fact that you have a bank account in your own name (not jointly with your parents) into which you deposit your income, and your parents are aware that you have a debit card that you used to access these funds, your parents can take your debit card away from you, if they so choose. 

Of course, as a practical matter, that doesn’t prevent you from getting another debit card (unless your financial institution requires your parent to approve issuance of a a debit card to a minor) that you keep secret from your parents, but if they find out you’ve done that, be prepared for trouble. 

If your parents opened an account in their names (or in the name of one parent or the other) and they arranged to have a debit card issued to you to access those funds, then the account and the debit card are not yours, they belong to your parent(s). In that situation, they can take away the debit card. 

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277  


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