Before, during, and after a divorce, both parents are legally obligated to financially support their minor children. In Illinois, the parents’ obligation to their child continues until the child turns 18, or 19 if the child is still attending high school. But what happens if a child is not capable of becoming financially independent as a result of a mental or physical disability?
While normally a family court will not place high concern on a child’s adult financial security, in this case the child’s adult finances are an important factor in ordering support. When a divorce includes a child with disabilities or special needs, the court can order support past the age of majority, even for the child’s entire adult life. If you find yourself with questions about the support you may owe your child, you should speak with a family law attorney immediately for help.
Can the Court Really Order the Parent to Pay Support for an Adult Child?
If it is in the best interests of the child to receive support past the age of majority, the court has the right to order that support. In Illinois, the court may deviate from the child support guidelines when “the child is mentally or physically disabled and not otherwise emancipated …” A child with a disability has many increased costs that will not terminate simply because he or she reaches the age of 18 and, if the disability is severe, the child may not be able to function on his or her own and the obligation of the parents will continue. One single parent should not have the full responsibility of an adult child who, as a result of his or her disability, cannot be self-sufficient.
Would My Child’s Disability Qualify for Increased Support?
Each child in a family law case is different and the court will look at the case specific evidence to determine whether the child needs increased and/or prolonged child support payments. The court takes into consideration the physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child, which can be far more complex and expensive than the average child. In order to show the court that the child needs support payments to continue past the age of majority, the moving party must show a connection between the child’s disability and the child’s inability to financially support him or herself as an adult.
Having a child with a disability can be very emotional, and determining what evidence would make a factual connection between the disability and the need for support may not be something you can pinpoint. The combined knowledge and expertise of the DuPage County family law attorneys at Sullivan Taylor & Gumina, P.C. will help allow you to concentrate on your child’s immediate needs rather than future support payments. Please contact us today at our offices in Wheaton, Illinois to find out how we can make sure your child’s needs are taken care of—not just today but into the future.