Getting Child Support Extended For Disabled Adult Children

Having child support orders cease when dependent children reach the age of majority works out just fine when the kids are capable of taking care of themselves once they reach adulthood. Unfortunately, some disabled children are incapable of being self-sufficient when they become adults, and the financial responsibility for their care is placed squarely on the shoulders of the custodial parents once the support orders end. If you care for a mentally or physically disabled child, there may be a way you can get a child support order extended beyond the age of majority cutoff. Here's what you need to do to take advantage of this option.

Check State Laws

Whether or not you can petition the court to have your ex-spouse continue paying child support for your disabled child will depend on the laws on in your state. Some states, such as Arizona, allow family courts to extend or create support orders for dependent children past the age of majority if their disability prevents them from living by themselves or attaining employment. Other states, such as Delaware and Kansas, either don't have provisions for disabled children or only allow the support orders to continue if both parents agree.

The first step, then, is to check the relevant laws in your state to see how child support for disabled adult children is handled. You can do this either by contacting a family law attorney or using the Internet to lookup the family law codes in your state. Most states will usually have their laws listed on their government websites. For instance, California's family law codes can be found at the California Legislative Information website.

If your state doesn't have provisions for disabled children, then you may want to enlist the help of an attorney or a mediator to help you negotiate a fair financial arrangement for the care of your child with your ex-spouse.

Provide Evidence of Disability

States that allow support orders to continue past the age of majority typically have eligibility requirements that the child must meet. These requirements vary a bit between states, but the most consistent condition is the parents must demonstrate the child is incapable of living alone and/or generating adequate income to support their needs, two common markers for self-sufficiency.

In addition to providing proof of the child's disability, the parent may need to have an expert testify (in writing or in person) about how the child's condition affects the individual's ability to care and provide for his or herself. For instance, a person with Cerebral Palsy may not have enough control over his or her body movements to handle even basic hygiene issues and may need assistance from a caregiver.

Another requirement for eligibility for extended child support in many states is the child's disability must have occurred before the person reached a certain age. Generally, the cutoff point is the age of majority (e.g. 18, 19, or 21), so children who become disabled after reaching the age defined by state law won't be eligible for extended child support.

This particular requirement is usually easy to prove with medical records. However, you may run into some difficulty if the adult child became disabled close to the time when the person would've become ineligible. For example, the person sustains a brain injury a few days before his or her 18th birthday, but isn't officially diagnosed with a disability until six months later. Your ability to win an extension on the support order may depend on whether you can convince the court the child was disabled at the time the brain injury occurred and that nothing else happened in the intervening months that contributed to or caused the person's disability.

Show Continued Need

Lastly, in most cases, the child support order will only be extended for as long as the child's disability prevents him or her from being self-sufficient. If the person's condition improves to the point where the individual is able to support his or herself, then the paying parent can petition the court to end the support order. Therefore, it may be necessary to submit medical reports and other evidence to the court on a regular basis to show a continuing need for the money.

Obtaining an extended support order for a disabled child involves a lot of complexity. It's a good idea to work with a family law attorney in your area to increase the odds of obtaining the outcome you want.