Divorce and Child Support for Special Needs Children

Divorce is already a tough emotional experience and difficult financially, but it can be even more daunting for spouses who have a child with special needs. Typically, child support ends when a child reaches the age of majority or when he or she graduates from high school. For divorcing parents of a child with special needs, however, this is often not the case, given that certain disabilities involve severe impairments that require life-long care and life-long co-parenting.

The amount of detail required to plan for your child’s future well-being and protection can feel overwhelming, especially for the primary custodial parent. When making a request for child support, it is paramount to consider what your child’s special needs are projected to be long-term as well as the costs involved for adequate care and support. While an agreement between the parents on child support for their disabled child is certainly desirable, sometimes it is simply not possible, and the custodial parent will need to file a request for the court to make the appropriate child support order.

Adult Child Support

Under California law, parents may have a duty to financially support their adult children. There are two situations in which a child must continue to be supported after reaching the age of majority:

  • When the adult child is considered a “needy incapacitated child;” and
  • When there is an agreement by the parties to continue to support the adult child.

There are two ways to show that an adult child is incapacitated from earning a living. The first is to provide proof to the court that the adult child has a mental or physical disability that prevents the child from being able to work. The mental or physical disability must truly prevent the child from being able to work or to obtain work. It is not enough if the adult child is either not looking for work or is unable to find work for another reason. The mental or physical disability must be the primary reason that the adult child cannot work.

The second way to show that an adult child is incapacitated from earning a living is to provide proof to the court that the adult child is unable to find a job due to factors beyond the child’s control. This does not simply mean that the adult child has looked for a job and cannot find one. There must be an underlying reason for the adult child being unable to obtain employment, such as an adult child having the maturity level of a young child. This standard is even more difficult to show than the mental or physical disability.

On the surface, adult child support cases may seem relatively simple and proceed similarly to a regular child support case. However, it has been my experience that adult child support cases usually necessitate the use of medical and earning capacity experts. They can be highly contentious and more complicated to litigate because individuals with disabilities are involved. Each individual situation requires an analysis of its specific facts and circumstances. [Disclaimer]

Our family law team at Naimish & Lewis can advise you on questions related to adult child support and other dissolution and divorce related matters involving children. To schedule an initial consultation with an attorney at our firm, please contact us.