The legal system recognizes that children are generally incapable of adequately supporting themselves and, therefore, parents are required to provide financial support. In cases in which two parents are no longer together, one parent generally has the obligation to pay regular child support to the other parent. When a child reaches the age of 18, he or she is considered an adult and child support obligations generally cease.
There are two important exceptions under Florida law to the rule that child support terminates on the child’s 18th birthday and these exceptions are as follows:
- The child is 18, lives at home, attends high school, and there is reasonable expectation that the child will graduate before their 19th birthday; or
- The child is over 18 but remains dependent on their parents because of mental or physical incapacity that started when they were younger than 18.
The second exception is important for any parents of children who are either born with a disabling condition, develop a condition during childhood, or who sustained a catastrophic injury that left them unable to care for themselves.
Does Your Child Qualify For Extended Child Support?
The important factor in determining whether an adult child will qualify for child support is whether the child is “dependent” on their parent for support. Some courts equate dependency with “disability” while others state that dependency requires an adult child to suffer from a “serious” mental or physical incapacitation. In some cases, it is clear that an adult child cannot care for him or herself while, in others, the discretion to interpret the law and determine whether extended child support is warranted rests with the court.
For example, if a child is completely unable to work due to mental or physical impairments, the finding of dependency would be likely. On the other hand, if a child has an illness or impairment but can hold a job and/or live on his or her own, he or she would likely not qualify as dependent. Many cases, though, fall somewhere in between. For example, a gray area may exist in the case of an adult child who has a moderate psychological condition or partial physical impairment and lives at home for assistance. The court may decide that, while the parent does provide support, the child is actually capable of supporting him or herself and may not extend the child support obligations. In such cases, it is imperative to present your case to the court in a way that supports your position.
A Qualified Child Support Attorney in Boca Raton Can Help You Today
If you are facing a child support determination and have a disabled child, you should always have an experienced child support lawyer representing your interests. Additionally, you should call an attorney as soon as possible if you believe an existing child support order should be modified because your child has become incapacitated. Caring for a disabled child is difficult enough without having to worry about financial obligations. Please call the family law office of Alan R. Burton at 954-229-1660 for a free consultation today.