What Happens with Child Support and Special Needs Children in a Florida Divorce?
Raising children is expensive. There is no arguing that fact. However, if you have a child with special needs, you already know how much more expensive that process can be. And, once a child with special needs turns 18, they likely will still need assistance and support. This means raising a child could be a lifetime endeavor.
It’s understandable that parents may be genuinely concerned about what will happen to their special needs children in the event of a divorce. Florida has a law that terminates child support obligations at age 18. Couples who are trying to learn how to navigate the additional challenges they face with raising a special needs child are likely to be extremely concerned in the event of a divorce.
Extending Child Support
If you have a child with special needs, there may be a way to extend child support beyond the child’s 18th birthday. Florida laws allow for an extension in the event a child is dependent on his or her parents beyond the age of 18 due to a “mental or physical incapacity” that was present before the child turned 18.
Children who have physical or mental disabilities may not be able to work, and therefore cannot support themselves. They may be unable to take care of themselves or unable to hold down a job that would make it possible for them to make a living to support themselves. If your child is disabled and cannot take care of him- or herself and their daily needs once they reach the age of majority (18 years old), then the family court judge can require the parent paying support continue payments beyond the 18th birthday.
The one very important factor here is when the disability occurred. As previously mentioned, the disability needs to have been present before your child’s 18th birthday. If he or she is born with cerebral palsy, it could count. If he or she suffered an accident or illness that left them disabled at age 10, it would qualify. However, if your child was injured in an accident when they were 19, it would not qualify for an extension of child support during your divorce.
Unfortunately, the court does not take into consideration that your expenses will be the same no matter whether your child was injured when they were 17 or after they turned 18. Once a child turns 18, the legal obligation to pay child support is terminated and it cannot be legally reinstated. The only way to get a reinstatement would be to have a new financial agreement in place that says both parents will continue to support the child. If this situation applies, enforcing the agreement would be handled under contract law theories, not family court and child support laws.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you are preparing for a divorce and raising a child with special needs, you’ll want a Boca Raton divorce attorney on your side who can help you fight for the most support possible. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today to schedule an initial consultation. Let our Florida family law attorneys help you through the difficult process of your divorce, including child support negotiations.