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Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

| July 17, 2017


QUESTION: My son started taking college classes right after graduating from High School. He has suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder and has a couple of health concerns, so I called the college to see how he is doing. They refused to give me any information. I’m paying his tuition – shouldn’t I have a right to see his grades?

ANSWER: Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) you have a right to see your son’s records – but only until he turns 18 or enrolls in an institution of higher learning. Once he hits either of those landmarks, parents are regarded as third parties, and a record release to a third party requires the student’s prior written and signed consent.

Many schools are sticklers about following FERPA’s requirements. Some, in fact, go beyond FERPA, denying a parent access to a child’s grades, even when parents are able to prove their child is their dependent for tax purposes (an exception allowed under FERPA). The University of Michigan, for example, suggests parents discuss the issue with their college-bound kid; a student can grant a parent access to his or her on-line records. However, this friendly solution may not work for all records, or at all institutions.

When a child reaches age 18 and gains the right to marry, to vote, and to enter into binding contracts, parents lose some important rights relating to their child’s welfare. At that point, you are not entitled to see your son’s academic records. You also lose the authority to make health care decisions for your son, or to help him manage his money.

Losing this authority can have serious consequences: If your son were injured, a doctor would not be allowed to discuss his condition with you, or allow you to make treatment decisions. And, if your son were to run into financial difficulties – if he had his wallet stolen while on a foreign study program, for instance – you would be unable to manage his finances while the problem was sorted out.

So, in addition to buying twin-size comforter sets and dorm room gear, parents are well-advised to obtain two documents before sending their children off to college: a durable power of attorney, and a health care directive. A durable power of attorney gives parents the right to act on their child’s behalf on a variety of financial and legal matters (and will also give parents access to a student’s transcript). A health care directive, also called a health care power of attorney, would give parents the right, as agents for their child, to make medical decisions on the child’s behalf and to access medical records.

An experience attorney could easily draw up both documents for the benefit of your son.

The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC, is a Troy based law firm representing clients from Warren, Sterling Heights, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Oak Park, Oakland and Wayne Counties and all of Southeast Michigan

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile

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Category: Featured Column

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