Behind child actors such as Iain Armitage, and child influencers such as Ryan’s World and Niana Guerrero, there are the contracts that made their success possible. Florida’s Labor Laws require that contracts with minors include provisions to ensure that children are not exploited because of their youth. While not every employed minor is a model or entertainer, business owners and managers who wish to work with a minor may all be wondering the same thing: If I sign a contract with a minor, will it be enforceable?
All parties to a contract must have the legal ability to do so for the agreement to be valid. Minors (who, in Florida and many other jurisdictions, are under the age of 18) are deemed to lack the mental capacity required to enter into binding agreements under the law. Among the reasons for this are that minors are presumed to have insufficient understanding of the legal terms and obligations. Likewise, the law assumes that minors lack the necessary judgment and experience to fully comprehend the consequences that contracts may impose upon them.
So, while a minor may be able to enter into a contract, this “lack of capacity” gives them the option to cancel (or disaffirm) it. A court will not approve of a contract unless the child’s parent or guardian, or guardian ad litem approves of the contract, unless the child is emancipated. A contract entered into by a parent or guardian on behalf of a minor can still be disaffirmed at the minor’s election. However, if the contract is judicially affirmed, the minor cannot disaffirm the contract by arguing that–due to their age–they lack the mental capacity to enter a contract or by arguing that their parent or guardian lacked authority to enter into the contract on their behalf.
In Florida, and as a general rule, many courts will enforce minor agreements if they concern “necessities.” Necessities may include things like food, clothing and shelter. Some states also have statutory exceptions, where minors’ rights to cancel agreements are limited, including those in connection with insurance, educational loans and healthcare.
Additionally, if the minor does not cancel a contract prior to turning 18 (or a reasonable time thereafter), the contract can no longer be disaffirmed just because the individual was under 18 when the agreement was executed.
In Florida, entertainment contracts with minors are governed by Florida’s Child Labor Laws, Administrative Code and Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Florida law provides for judicial approval of minor contracts regarding personal services for performing artists (like actors, musicians and models) and athletes. The definition of “performing artist” in this context may soon be amended to include child social media influencers. Once an agreement has been approved by the court, the child may no longer disaffirm the agreement on the basis that he or she lacked contractual capacity or that their parent or guardian lacked authority to enter into the contract at the time of signing.
Florida courts take many factors into consideration before approving minor contracts. The current law states that minors are permitted to be employed by the Entertainment industry provided that work is not hazardous or detrimental to the minor’s health, morals, education or welfare. This means that if the employment becomes dangerous for the minor after court approval of the agreement, a judge may modify or even revoke approval of the child’s obligations under the agreement.
However, unlike in New York and California, Florida does not require that Coogan trust accounts are created on the minor’s behalf. These trust accounts were named after a famous child actor, Jackie Coogan. Coogan was one of the highest paid child actors in the 1920s. When he turned 21 and asked for a share of his earnings from his mother, he learned that all of his earnings were gone. He sued to regain the funds and won, but only ended up receiving the small amount of earnings that was left at the time.
Florida employers for minors in the Entertainment industry must:
All of these are required in Florida. In other businesses, state or federal labor laws may limit the type of work minors are permitted to conduct, require additional employer permits or licenses or dictate special working conditions for minors.
For the reasons stated above, allowing minors to disaffirm contractual agreements is generally good public policy. However, a contract cancelled by a minor may have serious repercussions, both for the child’s family and for the other party. Before signing a contract with a minor, both parties should closely review the employment laws of their jurisdiction, consider the minor’s rights to cancel and think about the consequences of any such cancellation. Experienced entertainment and employment attorneys at Romano Law are ready to help. Contact us to speak with a member of our team.
Andres Munoz is admitted to practice law in New York and Florida.