Extending Child Support for Disabled Children

As any parent knows, children are expensive—they are living human beings who lack the ability to take care of themselves on their own. As a result, parents spend a decent chunk of change to make sure their children’s needs are met. Most parents seem to do this naturally without explicitly being told by anyone.

The notion that a parent should take care of their children seems to be generally wired into basic human understanding. The law on child support reflects this basic understanding as it applies to situations involving divorced or separated parents. Society takes a parent’s natural instinct to care for their child and enshrines it as a legal duty applicable to all parents.

The Parental Duty to Provide Child Support

Under Texas law, parents are legally obligated to provide their children with enough financial resources to secure necessities for their children, such as food, shelter, education, and medical care. Most married parents who live with their children satisfy this basic duty on a regular basis by buying groceries for the family, buying or renting a dwelling to live in, sending them to school, and taking them to the doctor.

When parents get a divorce and no longer live together, their time living with the child is divided between them. Courts will issue child support orders for divorced or otherwise separated parents to help ensure that the child gets the same financial benefits as they would if their parents still lived together.

A parent’s duty to pay child support typically lasts until the child reaches the age of 18. This is because the law generally considers 18-year-old individuals as adults capable of handling their own financial and personal affairs without assistance from someone else. Accordingly, child support obligations automatically terminate when a child reaches the age of majority.

Child Support for Adult Disabled Children

If a child has a physical or mental disability that renders them incapacitated, a parent’s child support obligations may be extended after the child’s 18th birthday.

Under Texas Family Code § 154.302, a court can order parents to provide continued support of a minor or adult disabled child if the following criteria are met:

  • The child is unable to support themselves due to a mental or physical disability and requires substantial care and supervision as a result
  • The child’s disability, or its cause, existed or is known to exist before they turn 18

The custodial parent or legal guardian of a disabled child has the right to initiate a legal action to extend a child support order beyond the disabled child’s 18th birthday. Additionally, an adult disabled child can file an action for extended child support if they do not have a mental disability, and a court finds that they are capable of managing their financial affairs.

Although the child’s disability must have existed before the child’s 18th birthday, a court does not have to declare the disability’s existence before the child turns 18.

Special Needs Trusts and Continued Child Support

Section 154.302 also authorizes Texas courts to designate a special needs trust to which a parent can directly pay support to benefit the disabled child. A special needs trust provides for the management of trust assets for the benefit of an individual with special needs. Importantly, a special needs trust helps ensure that the beneficiary’s eligibility for certain government benefits.

In particular, one’s eligibility to receive Supplemental Security Income requires them to place their assets into a special needs trust. During the beneficiary’s lifetime, the trust’s assets are invested for their benefit. When the beneficiary passes away, the government may be reimbursed for the cost of the beneficiary’s medical care using the deceased beneficiary’s trust assets.

For Quality Legal Advice, Consult Kay Polk Attorney at Law

Issues related to child support and other family law matters can be challenging to handle. If you have any questions or concerns regarding such issues, you should get in contact with Kay Polk Attorney at Law. With years of experience with various family law issues in Texas, you can count on Attorney Polk to effectively represent you and your interests in accordance with Texas law.

Call Kay Polk, Attorney at Law at (713) 234-6260 or contact her office online to arrange for an initial consultation about your legal interests today.