Support for a Disabled Child
A parent has a duty to provide for their children. While normally the duty of support stops at the age of 18, this is not the case if your child is disabled. Florida law establishes a duty of support owed by a parent to their child or children, and one of the only situations in which it may extend beyond the age of majority is if that child experiences severe physical or mental problems that may preclude their supporting themselves.
Florida Law on Child Support
In most situations, child support will be held to be payable from the noncustodial parent to the custodial parent, with the right belonging to the child and not the parent (in other words, the custodial parent has an obligation to use the funds appropriately, for the care of the child), with the support obligation ceasing on the child’s 18th birthday. Child support is neither tax deductible nor claimable as income, and may not simply be dissipated on expenses for the parent.
There are exceptions to the rules which may extend support beyond the child’s 18th birthday. One applies if the child is still attending secondary school (high school) and is slated to graduate before their 19th birthday while performing in good faith – in other words, if the child is still living at home due to school considerations and is not simply putting in minimal effort in order to remain at home. The other is disability, though there are certain criteria that the case must fit before support may be extended by the court.
“Dependency” Must Result
In order to successfully petition for child support obligations to extend past the age of 18 due to disability, current Florida law forces the court to either undergo or seek out what can be a very distasteful and subjective determination – what constitutes a “severe” disability for the purposes of “dependency.” The relevant language of the statute is that in order to extend child support beyond the age of 18, the child or young adult in question must be “dependent” – that is, in a position where they may still require support.
Florida jurisprudence has been somewhat divided on this issue, especially when discussing mental illness in young people. The spectrum of decisions is wide – determining what constitutes dependency has largely been left up to the court deciding the case, which can result in inconsistent definitions. Generally, any kind of condition or illness that may prevent a young adult from holding a job can qualify – one example is found in Pitts v Pitts (1990), in which the parties’ child had been diagnosed with learning disabilities, which required him to spend more time than usual on his studies, leaving no time for work.
Ask an Experienced Attorney
Parents generally want to do right by their children, and sometimes in order to do so, they must financially support them for longer than usual. If you have a disabled child, and you have questions about their support, contacting a knowledgeable attorney can help. The Hollywood child support lawyers at the Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. are happy to try and sit down with you to discuss your case. Contact the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood Law Offices of Steven A. Mason, P.A. for legal advice at 954-963-5900 or leave a message online.