09 Mar Disabled Adult Child Support
You know your own children, or at least you should know them! But do you and your ex spouse agree on whether one or more of your children may be incapable of looking after themselves after they reach the age of an adult (18 years)? If you have separated from your spouse and are paying child support, you may think that child support stops when each child reaches adult age. This may not be the case if you have a disabled child who cannot look after him or herself.
How Family Law Defines an Adult Child who Cannot be Financially Independent
Family law in California makes provision for children who are “without sufficient means” and whose physical or mental disability prevents them from “earning a living.” (California’s Family Code – FAM Division 9. Article 2: Support of Adult Child [3910-3910])
In the case of separated parents this means that each parent must continue to pay support for the disabled adult child, even if the adult child is living with one of the parents alone.
Can You Both Agree About Your Child’s Condition?
This may sound reasonably explicit, but there may be a disagreement between you and your spouse whether the adult child in question really is incapable of earning a living or just prefers not to do so. Because this can be a question of a lot of money over the life time of the child, it can be a source of acrimony between you and your spouse.
There are ways to reduce the source of disagreement but this does depend on you and your ex-spouse co-operating on what is best for your child. The sooner this is done, the better.
If there is any potential disagreement, the first option is to get an independent medical (psychological or physical) assessment of the physical or mental disability of the child.
SSI Payments May be Possible
The next step depends on whether when the child becomes 18 whether the child will be eligible for any social security benefits. If you take the matter to a family court, then it may be decided that the disability is sufficiently severe for the child to be “incapable of earning a living”. However, the assessment of disability may not be sufficient for a social security benefit. This may not be determined until an application is made for Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) payments to the Social Security Administration.
If the application is approved, then the payments may relieve both parents somewhat from paying out the full amount needed to keep the child healthy and happy.
The Family court then may make an assessment of both the parent’s incomes and abilities to make any additional payment to supplement the Social Security payments.
If either of you are on a low income, you may be relieved of any extra payments to the adult child and the Social Security payment will be the mainstay of his or her income. If either of you have more than adequate financial means you may be asked to provide an extra supplement to cover the cost of looking after the child for the rest of his or her life.
If the latter is what is determined, it may be a sound idea to set up a trust to look after the child’s welfare. The trust should ensure that the beneficiary gets medical treatment provided through the SSI program.
How a Family Law Attorney Can Help You
The whole process can be mentally and psychologically taxing, but it is vital for your child’s long term welfare that you get it right. It may be a good idea to contact a Long Beach Family Law attorney as early as you can to work out what you should do and how you should go about it. It may be more effective and less stressful all round if you live in Long Beach, Lakewood or Los Angeles County in California, if you use one of our objective yet sympathetic attorneys at the Law Offices of Damian M. Nolan rather than trying to go it alone. Ring for a free initial consultation at 562-634-1115.