Under Texas law, as a general rule the obligation to pay child support ends when an unmarried child (1) is at least eighteen; and (2) graduates from high school. Therefore, if the child is at least eighteen when he/she graduates from high school, then under the general rule the child support obligation terminates after the date of graduation. If the child in not yet eighteen when he/she graduates from high school, then the child support obligation terminates after the child’s eighteen birthday. However, the legislature has created an important exception to this general rule that permits child support to be paid for a child with disabilities that has reached the age of eighteen regardless of whether the child ever graduates from high school.
Specifically, the Texas Family Code allows for indefinite child support to be paid for an adult child over the age of eighteen that:
- Requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and will not be capable of self-support; and
- The disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the eighteenth birthday of the child.
A suit for child support for an adult disabled child may be brought by a parent of the child or another individual that has physical custody or guardianship of the child pursuant to a court order. In addition, in certain circumstances, the adult child may have standing to bring the suit. If the Judge finds that an adult child meets the above criteria and is entitled to support, then the Judge may order one or both parents to provide such support for the adult child. In addition, the Judge has the ability to order that the child support be paid directly to the adult disabled child if deemed appropriate.
While the Texas Family Code sets forth very specific child support guidelines for the Court to use to determine the amount of support to be paid a for a child that is not disabled, the same is not true for determining the amount of child support for an adult disabled child. Instead, the Judge will make a needs-based assessment to determine an appropriate child support amount to be paid. In calculating child support for an adult disabled child, the Texas Family Code directs the Judge to give specific consideration to:
- Any existing or future needs of the adult child directly related to the adult child’s mental or physical disability and the substantial care and personal supervision of the adult child;
- Whether the parent pays or will pay for care or supervision of the adult child or provides or will provide substantial care or personal supervision of the adult child;
- The financial resources available to both parents for the support, care, and supervision of the adult child; and
- Any other financial resources or other resources or programs available for the support, care, and supervision of the adult child.
If you believe that your child has special needs that will necessitate support beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday and/or graduation from high school, then it is important that you take the necessary action to ensure that the child will continue to receive the support that he/she needs in the future. Contact GoransonBain Ausley to set up a consultation with an experienced attorney to answer your questions regarding your child’s right to continued support.