In October 2021, New York became the 41st state to pass a law extending the duration of time for which parents of adults with developmental disabilities may receive child support payments. Under the new law, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, single parents of children with developmental disabilities may receive child support payments until their child reaches the age of 26. The parents must petition the courts for this continued payment.
The impact of this legislation is great as the Health Resources & Services Administration noted in 2018 that there are 13.6 million children under 18 years old who have special healthcare needs, and 25 percent of homes have more than one child with such needs. Advocacy Group, Autism Speaks, notes the costs for raising a child with autism with an intellectual disability can average $1.2 to $1.4 million over their lifetime.
The bi-partisan legislation passed in New York follows other states that recognized that children with developmental disabilities require more care and support from their parents. In some cases, adults with developmental disabilities will require financial, physical, and emotional support throughout their lives.
Prior to the enactment of this legislation, in New York State, financial child support terminated when the child reaches the age of 18 or 21 years depending on certain criteria such as attending full time college, or working full time or enlisting in the military, as the child is assumed to have the ability to be self- supporting at those points. While this assumption holds true for most typical children, many special needs children are unable to become self-supporting.
The requirement of parents in all states to support their minor children, including in the form of child support, typically ends when a child turns 18, 19 or 21 – the age of majority. For adult children with developmental disabilities, the laws vary by state concerning payment of child support past the age of 18.
While the age of majority varies by state, most states require that in order to qualify for an extension of child support past the age of majority, the developmental disability must have occurred prior to reaching the age of majority. Most states also require a separate court application to obtain extended support past the age of majority for a special needs child.
Custodial parents working to prove a developmentally disabled child requires support into adulthood have optimal results when working with an attorney to provide the court with all documentation to satisfy the necessary factors for extended child support.
It is best to have sworn statements, medical records, school records and any additional documentation that details the child’s intellectual, physical, or emotional limits that prevent them from becoming self-supporting and why that child may require custodial care or other support.
New York’s extension in the duration of child support for developmentally disabled adults until the age of 26 will assist parents in finding programs that may assist their adult child with living arrangements, at home care or even vocational training.
Importantly parents may only petition the court for the extension if the child has not yet reached the age of 26.
Single parents of adult developmentally disabled children will do well to speak with an attorney to determine if their child qualifies for extended child support benefits. The extra support can be a much-needed lifeline for single parents.
Prior to reaching the age of majority, the parents of developmentally disabled children were likely assisted through their local school districts, where the children would spend hours of their day. Once the children age-out of the school system, the single parent may be the sole caretaker of the child. The extended child support may provide the single parent with respite care and provide them with additional time to plan and put the next steps for their adult developmentally disabled child in place.