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Lawmakers seek consistency on support for disabled adult children

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Uncategorized

When couples who have children divorce, they generally remain connected, at least peripherally, even after their children become adults. For parents of disabled children, that connection may need to be greater – and in part financial — if a child can’t become a financially independent adult and requires ongoing care.

What responsibilities do divorcing parents have to help support a disabled child who’s over 18? In Ohio, it depends on where you live.

The Castle v. Castle case

The state has not benefited from consistent approaches regarding this issue that was most notably raised in a child support case in 1984 (Castle v. Castle). The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in that case that the “moral and legal obligation to support disabled children does not stop simply because the disabled child turns 18, as do traditional support orders regarding children with no disabilities.”

Currently, some counties (including Erie County) will consider requests to order a parent to pay child support for an adult disabled child. Others won’t.

A proposed law would allow courts in all counties to consider requests for this support

Now, some Ohio lawmakers are advocating for a law that would allow any parent of an adult disabled child (one who became disabled before they were 18) to seek support from their co-parent regardless of where they live in the state.

The proposed legislation doesn’t mandate that a judge award support or detail how an award amount would be determined, though. Among the things a court would likely consider is how much the adult disabled child is receiving in government benefits. The legislation would simply allow all family courts throughout the state to consider a support award under these circumstances.

One advocate for the legislation notes that in the counties that don’t allow consideration of a support order, there can be glaring inconsistencies within the same family. For example, “The court could consider child support for a healthy 13-year-old but could not consider child support for a disabled 19-year-old.”

This proposed legislation is still a long way from becoming law. In the meantime, it’s important to know how the matter is treated in the county where you live if you’re divorcing and you are a parent of a dependent adult child. Making this effort can help you to take the steps you need to in order to help ensure that your child can continue to receive the financial help and care they need even after their parents are no longer together.