Child support for special needs children – not a topic that most families are faced having to discuss, however approximately 20% of couples have at least one special needs child. California courts require parents to financially support their special needs child (regardless of their age). An order of child support for special needs children may be obtained to make sure the special needs child has their basic living requirements met. It is not uncommon for parents to underestimate the financial requirements of a special needs child. This is because as special needs children develop, their needs regarding financial support will change. Therefore, the issue of child support for special needs children should be carefully reviewed in divorce, legal separation or other marriage termination proceedings.

Children with special needs have higher financial care requirements than normal children. Some of these requirements include additional costs for medical care, medication, medical equipment, occupational or speech therapy, social and behavioral therapy, special education, and in-home care, to name a few.

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There is limited legislative guidance on how parents should arrange ongoing financial support of their child into adulthood. California Family Code Section 3910 provides that:

The father and mother have an equal responsibility to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means.

In California, child support payments are typically required until the child graduates or turns 18 years old. On the other hand, however, a disabled child is usually not self-supporting and may require special care into adulthood or throughout their entire life. In this instance, California courts may order child support for special needs children that require both parents to continue to support their disabled adult child throughout their life.

In order to better understand how the court determines “needs”, pertinent legal terminology exists to help parents make sure their child receives the support he/she needs. Read on to learn more.

Government Support, Child Support For Special Needs Children

Most parents cannot afford the high-costs associated with raising a special needs child. Parents rely heavily on government benefits to get the medical care their child needs. The court will take into consideration the government benefits a child receives when establishing a court order of child support for special needs children. Contact us for a child support estimate based on your child’s needs.

Many special needs children need ongoing medical treatment into adulthood. Since the income of both parents will vary throughout their child’s lifetime, they should consider government assistance in caring for their child.  For example, Social Security disability benefits can provide financial help to a special needs child.  Such benefits are taken into consideration by the court when setting child support for special needs children.

How Earning Ability Affects Child Support For Special Needs Children

California courts favor child support. With special needs children, the court will consider the child’s functioning skills and ability to obtain/maintain gainful employment upon entering adulthood.  Government financed independent medical exams are routinely used to test the extent of a child’s disability. The test results are used to determine the type of employment a special needs person may be suitable for. The test results can be limiting and should not be fully relied upon when determining the amount of support each parent should provide to their special needs child.

Conservatorship and Special Needs Children

We can help you get a conservatorship over your child upon entering adulthood. Although some disabled adult children may be competent enough to manage most of their money, parents should seriously consider obtaining a conservatorship. Doing so will help make sure their special needs child is well cared for in case both parents die. Parents should consider adding more than one conservator. This will help make sure a responsible family member or friend will manage their child’s finances in an honest and effective manner.  

Contact us for more information about how to file for conservatorship for a developmentally disabled child or to obtain or modify an order of child support for special needs children.

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