Issues surrounding financial support when caring for a special needs child can be complicated. The nature and extent of the child's disability will be taken into consideration when determining the level of child support needed and how long the non-custodial parent must keep making payments.
Child Support Basics
Both parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children until they reach the age of majority or finish high school, whichever circumstance happens first. Each state sets its own guidelines for calculating the amount of child support the non-custodial parent is expected to pay.
The amount of support ordered or agreed to between the parties will depend on the non-custodial parent's income, how much time the child spends with each parent, and the amount required to cover the following:
- Child care expenses
- Health insurance
- Ordinary and necessary expenses
- Extraordinary medical expenses
Financial Support When Caring for a Special Needs Child
In a situation where the child requiring support has special needs, the amount of child support awarded may be higher. The non-custodial parent may also be required to continue making child support payments after the child has reached adulthood.
Education Expenses for Adult Children
If the child of the marriage is still in school after attaining the age of majority and is unable to support him or herself, the non-custodial parent may be required to continue making payments. Being asked to contribute toward the cost of tuition and books for the student is not uncommon.
In the case of parents who are still together, they can choose whether or not to provide financial support to their adult children who are continuing their education after high school. Some people would argue that this creates a double standard for parents and that those who either never married or divorced are being discriminated against. In spite of these allegations, the courts continue to order non-custodial parents to continue to support their children into adulthood.
Financial Support for Adult Disabled Children
When the Court determines whether or not an adult child is disabled for support purposes, it will look at economic considerations. If the person is unable to fully support themselves due to either a physical or mental infirmity, the non-custodial parent may be ordered to top up the disabled adult's income. This type of policy takes into account the fact that some disabled adults are either able to support themselves to a certain extent or quality for some form of financial benefits, either from Social Security or insurance proceeds. Each state has its own rules about whether existing support guidelines are to be used to calculate financial support when caring for special needs children (including adults). In some parts of the United States, this amount is determined by considering the disabled adult's needs and the parents' financial ability to contribute toward these costs.
In most states, the disability in question must be present before the child reaches the age of majority. If a person has reached adulthood and has been self-supporting and then becomes disabled due to an illness or injury, they do not have the legal right to seek support from their parents. (The parents may choose to provide financial support if they wish, though.) This is not the case in all jurisdictions, however. Any questions about the parents' obligation to continue to provide child support should be directed to an attorney licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction in question.
The lawyer can also advise about time limits for bringing legal action for support for an adult disabled child. The child my retain his or her own lawyer to ask for support, or the custodial parent can star the proceedings him or herself.