A divorce does not terminate parents' financial responsibility to their children, and parents of a disabled child generally must continue to provide support after the child turns 18. Support may be requested by either parent or the adult child himself. Because of complications with government benefits, parents may consider setting up a special needs trust to give money to their adult disabled child.
Child Support Obligation
When parents divorce, they have an obligation to continue to provide financial support for their children, either directly to the child or by sending child support payments to the other parent. Typically, this obligation ends when the child reaches the age of majority, usually 18. However, if the child is disabled, which generally means he cannot financially support himself due to a physical or mental impairment, parents are typically required to provide financial support indefinitely. The support may have been established when the child was a minor, but if the parents divorced after the child turned 18, support may be requested for the disabled adult child through the divorce proceeding.
Establishing Child Support
Courts establish child support for disabled children following the same basic guidelines as for minor children, but with additional considerations. The support amount may be adjusted based on additional and necessary educational, medical or similar expenses. The court may also consider whether a parent needs to hire someone to supervise the child on a daily basis or if the parent will take on this responsibility himself. Additionally, the court will typically consider the financial resources of both parents, as well as any other financial resources or programs that may be available to help the child.
Child Seeking Child Support
Child support is typically requested by a parent during divorce proceedings. However, in some cases, the disabled child can be the one to file for financial support if his parents are not providing for him. Depending on the laws of the state, a person over 18 may request support directly from his parents if his disability is not mental; the court determines if he can handle his financial affairs independently.
Often, an adult with a disability may qualify for government benefits, such as Social Security. In most states, the amount the child receives in benefits will not have an impact on the amount of child support the courts can order the parents to pay. However, if the child receives parental support, this may impact the amount he is entitled to receive in benefits. As a result, parents may consider setting up a special needs trust, which can disperse money to a disabled child without necessarily impacting his income. To set up this type of trust, you should consult with an attorney.
References & Resources
- Lerch Early & Brewer: Child Support for Adults With Disabilities
- American Bar Association: When Parents of Children With Disabilities Divorce
- Noelke English Maples St. Leger Blair: Child Support for Children With Disabilities
- Arizona Department of Economic Security: Social Security Benefits and Child Support