I have a 17 year old, soon to be 18 who has psychiatric disabilities. Severe depression, agoraphobia, self-mutilization, anxiety disorder. Hospitalized several times, recently stopped attending high school, but is doing online courses to get her diploma. She will not work, get her license or physically go into the school building because of her emotional state. Working very hard to help her, but have been unsuccessful so far. If she is unable to go directly to college next year, will her child support end as soon as she turns 18, which is next month?
I am sorry you are faced with this. Depending on the circumstances you can receive child support until she is 21 or 23. I would strongly suggest that you meet with a family law attorney to review your divorce agreement and if necessary file a modification to continue support. I wish you all the best.
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I am very sorry to hear about your daughter's illness. I understand how much stress you are going through. To answer your question accurately, I would need to know exactly what is, or is not written, in your divorce or separation agreement about child support and college. However, child support can always be modified. Given the circumstances of your daughter's disability, child support payments should continue after she turns 18 and if she attends college, will continue until at least age 21 or 23.
However, because of your daughter’s disability, the court has wide discretion in this area. Are you planning to apply for any government benefits, such as SSI or MA health on her 18th birthday? Have you contemplated filing for guardianship when she is turns 18? If you are, you should plan for it now! Many children who are disabled, depending on their disabilities, may require continuing child support for the rest of their lives. I would highly recommend that you consult, as soon as possible, with a family law attorney with expertise in guardianship law. You need to start planning for your daughter now before she turns eighteen years old.
Best of Luck,
Karen D. Lane
This answer is for informational purposes only. By responding to this question, attorney Karen D. Lane's answer does not create an attorney/client relationship with the person posing this question, and there is no attorney client privilege between you and Attorney Karen D. Lane. The answers provided are based upon the facts presented. Since many cases are very fact-specific, any person posing questions on this site should consider consulting with an attorney to discuss his/her case in greater detail to provide a more thorough and detailed analysis of the question posed. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area who regularly practices in the subject matter which your question is about. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Emancipation of a child is presumed once the child becomes independent of parental support, which can be anytime between ages 18 and 21. Generally, once a child reaches age 21, he/she must be enrolled in a post secondary educational program full time and complete a degree no later than age 23, which generally is the cut of date for parental obligation to support that child. However, the court has significant discretion to determine that a child is disabled and therefore not emancipated for purposes of support. In addition to seeking a continuance of child support from the non-custodial parent, there are other government programs that may provide some financial assistance, such as social security. Since your daughter will reach the age of majority (considered an adult) at age 18, you should consider a guardianship so that you (and perhaps her other parent) can be the guardian(s) of her finances and care. You should contact an experienced family law attorney to assist you in preparation for care for your daughter's finances after she reaches the age of majority. Best wishes.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein, and the receipt or transmission of same does not constitute or create an attorney-client relationship and the information provided does not constitute full analysis of any specific matter.
Without knowing all of the details, this isn't a guaranteed yes - but yes, it does sound like you will be eligible to receive child support past the age of 18 for your disabled child. Generally, child support should stop when the child is living independently. If your disabled child cannot do that, its likely that the support will extend until 21 (or 23 if she enrolls in college). But, there are other factors that might influence your ability to collect the support such as state funding like SSI / MassHealth. That said, it is important that you act NOW. You should see an attorney immediately because you need to assess your options related to guardianships and even special-needs trusts before she turns 18.
I'm glad to hear she is getting her diploma online but it sounds as though she's got a long, uphill battle in life and, as her mom, you want to be sure that you've got enough of a support net underneath her that she will be ok no matter what. There is a lot you can do, its worth it to get legal advice on your options at a minimum. Many lawyers give free consultations, I would recommend that at a minimum. And back on the child support issue, so long as there is a deviation from the guidelines, child support can be modified. Turning 18 will mean the guidelines no longer (necessarily) apply and so, a modification is possible. You can ask the judge to extend to 21 in order to maintain support for your daughter while she works out her plans for the future.
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