Support of a Disabled Adult Child

For most parents who make child support payments, their obligations often end when their children graduate from high school and turn 18 years old. These situations are well within the “normal” provisions of Illinois law governing child support. In certain cases, however, the law provides that either or both parents can be required to continue supporting a child after the child has reached the age of majority. Non-minor support, as it is frequently called, can be ordered by the court for the educational expenses of a child pursuing post-secondary education or for a disabled adult child who is unable to support him- or herself.

Existing Guidelines

Continuing support for a non-minor disabled child has been a part of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act for a number of years. As currently written, however, the law is relatively vague. It provides that a petition for ongoing support may be filed when a “child is mentally or physically disabled and not otherwise emancipated,” and that the application may be made before or after the child is considered an adult. In determining the appropriateness and amount of non-minor support, a court is expected to take into account all relevant factors, including but not limited to:

  • The financial resources of each parent;
  • The financial resources of the child; and
  • The standard of living the child could have expected if the parents’ had remained together.

Based on the language contained in the law, these provisions provide a great deal of latitude for the court in making such decisions.

Upcoming Amendments

Beginning in 2016, the law regarding non-minor support is getting a sort of facelift, as the family law reform measure signed this past summer sought to clarify some individual points. One of the most important changes made by the new law is the inclusion of definitions of “disabled” and “disability” as used in the statute. The law will hold that a “disabled” person is one with a mental or physical “impairment that substantially limits a major life activity,” and that the impairment itself is the “disability.”

The amended law also provides a new avenue for providing the support, as no such processes are explicitly in place under the current provisions. While the court may require payments to be made to one of the parents,—as is common under “normal” child support circumstances—a trust, such as a special needs trust, may be created for the benefit of the child and funded with the ordered support contributions.

Also included in the new law are amended statutory considerations required of court in making its determination. The resources of the parents and the disabled adult child must still be taken into account, but the update provides that the parents’ ability to provide for their own future, including retirement savings, should be expressly considered. It also requires the court to consider any and all local, state, federal, or private benefits available to the child as a result of his or her disability.

Legal Assistance with Changing Laws

If your child is disabled and approaching adulthood, and you have questions about non-minor support, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney today. Schedule a free consultation by calling 708-518-8200. We will review your situation and help you understand your rights and responsibilities under the law.