Usually a parent's duty to support their child ends when the child turns 18. But parents must continue to support children who are disabled and cannot live alone. Parents must support these disabled children until either the parent or child dies or the child can live alone.
A child support order can continue past 18 if two statements are true. First, the child must be mentally or physically disabled before age 18. To decide if a child is disabled a court will consider all the child's limits together. Examples of physical limits are loss of hearing or muscle control. Examples of mental limits are low IQ and learning problems. Second, disability must be the reason the child is unable to work or live alone. If the child has an IEP or gets SSI, that could be a sign the child may need continued support.
To get child support for a disabled child past 18, a parent must give the child support agency or judge proof of the disability. Medical documents and school records about the child's limits show disability. Sworn statements about the child's limits are also helpful. Parents may receive a letter saying support for a disabled child will stop at age 18. To keep support going, parents should provide the agency proof of the child's disability right away.
In order to stop paying support for someone over 18, a parent must prove the child can live alone. Information on the child's work history and life skills may show a child can live alone.
Only some courts will issue a new child support order for a disabled child after the child is 18. To get a new child support order, a parent must file a petition for support. The place to file depends on the county where the child lives and whether the parents were ever married. If you need help with a child support problem, call Legal Aid at 1-888-817-3777 to find out if you are eligible for assistance, or attend a free Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic. See our events calendar for a clinic near you.
This article was written by Legal Aid's Equal Justice Works Fellow Danielle Gadomski-Littleton and Legal Aid Senior Attorney Susan Stauffer and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 3. Click here to read the full issue.