Financial Support for Disabled Non-Minor Children

Financial Support for Disabled Non-Minor Children

In Florida, divorced parents are generally permitted to stop paying child support when their child reaches 18 years of age. There is an exception, however, for situations involving disabled non-minor children. In those instances, courts have discretion to order the continued payment of child support. Determining child support for non-minor children is a complex legal process, so if you are considering a divorce, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who can help ensure that your child’s interests are protected.

Exceptions to Termination of Child Support

According to state law, courts can require a parent to provide financial support for a child over the age of 18 if he or she:

  • Retains the status of a dependent because of a mental or physical impairment; or
  • Is between the ages of 18 and 19 years old, is still in high school, and has a reasonable expectation of graduating before his or her 19th birthday.

In order to qualify, an adult child’s impairment must have begun before he or she turned 18 years old. Determining disability can be a difficult process, and the submission of medical records indicating a diagnosis or treatment plan is vital to establishing disability.

Child Support Awards

Once a court has established that a non-minor child’s disability warrants the continued payment of child support by one or both parents, it will also determine the amount of child support owed. This requires courts to undertake an analysis of the incomes and properties of both parents. Courts will also take the amount of any benefits that a disabled adult is receiving into consideration when determining child support.

Establishing Trusts

After an award has been determined, courts may order the parties to take the sums out of their joint or separate properties or incomes. The funds may also be awarded from the estate of a child’s deceased parent. In many instances, the award will be paid to whichever parent retains primary custody and responsibility for the child.

However, courts also have the discretion to order the parties to create a trust for the benefit of the non-minor child. Often, parents are ordered by the court to create a special needs trust, which will provide for the maintenance of the child even after the lifetime of the contributing parties.

Modifying Child Support

Due to the changing medical needs of those with disabilities, it is not uncommon for judges to modify child support awards when the beneficiary is a disabled adult. For instance, parents can submit petitions to decrease, change, or even terminate child support payments. However, in order to justify terminating an award, one of the party’s circumstances must have undergone a substantial change, such as a change in income. In Florida, a parent can submit a petition for modification whenever the granting of the motion would result in a change of at least 15% or $50.

Determining child support can be emotional and stressful for all parties involved, as parents try to balance their own finances with the child’s best interests. The situation is even more complex when a child is no longer a minor and also physically or mentally disabled. If you and your child are dealing with family law issues, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.