Financial Support for Disabled Children Extends to Age 26

Parents of children with developmental disabilities have challenges that can strain their financial and emotional resources. These difficulties are amplified when a single parent is taking on the lion’s share of the day-to-day care.

The non-custodial parent pays child support, but until recently, there were no legal considerations for caring for special-needs children after they aged out of traditional child support.

New York child support laws deviate from most other states in how long child support is required. While most states end traditional child support at either 18 or 19, New York parents are financially responsible for their children until the age of 21.

Despite having laws recognizing a need to care for a child beyond 18, the state lagged most states in identifying additional needs for disabled children. That changed as of October 2021. Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law legislation that extends that responsibility for disabled children until the age of 26. Similar legislation had been passed earlier in 40 other states.

Certain Adult Dependents Eligible for Child Support

Domestic Relations law now specifies that adults with certain disabilities who would be eligible for support as a youth could retain that eligibility until the age of 26. The parent who provides care for the child can seek continued support. Eligible disabilities are identified in New York Mental Hygiene Law, Section 1.03 (Subdivision 22).

A diagnosis of developmental disability must be made by one of the following:

  • Physician
  • Licensed psychologist
  • Registered professional nurse
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Licensed master social worker

The disability must occur before the child turned 22 years old and is expected to continue indefinitely.

Court Has Discretion to Award Support

Child support for a disabled child is not an automatic right. The court will look at the same factors used in determining any child support award such as the total number of children needing support and both parents’ incomes. A judge may also consider whether the financial responsibility of the child’s care has been unreasonably placed on one parent.

The payor party may be ordered to make support payments to the petitioning parent or to the trustee of an exception trust as defined by the Social Services Law and Estates, Powers, and Trusts Laws.

The Necessity for Extending Child Support

When a child ages out of traditional child support is called the “age of majority.” New York identifies this age in the context of child support as 21. This is the year when the person is expected to be able to take care of themselves, financially and otherwise.

The cutoff for child support is appropriate for many children. However, children with certain developmental disabilities cannot be gainfully employed, cook themselves dinner, or otherwise adequately care for themselves. They cannot become emancipated. The role of the primary caregiver does not change when the child turns 21.

Petition to Continue Child Support Beyond Age 21

Both parents must assist in the expenses required to care for an adult child with developmental disabilities. At Samuelson Hause PLLC, we help custodial parents petition for continued financial support to attend to their disabled adult children. With the change to the law, child support can be extended to age 26 for qualifying special-needs children.

Call (516) 584-4685 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation to learn more about the process.