Adult Children with Special Needs

Parenting a child with special needs is deeply rewarding, but it can also be incredibly stressful. The unfortunate reality is that although a child is never to blame for the breakdown of their parents’ relationship, parents of a child with special needs are somewhat more likely to divorce. Often, one parent must dedicate themselves to supporting the family financially while the other parent is the primary caregiver. The stress of both roles can contribute to resentment between spouses and an eventual breakdown of the marriage.

Co-parenting a special needs child after divorce carries its own stresses, including the financial burden of caring for the child. While parents of many children look forward to the day their children become fully independent, children with special needs may need their parents’ care and support for longer.

Until recently, children with special needs in New York State were eligible for child support up until the age of 21. However, recognizing that that was insufficient for many children, in 2022 the legislature enacted Domestic Relations Law §240-d, which allows parents to petition to receive child support for an adult child with disabilities beyond age 21, and up to age 26.

New York Law Regarding Support for Developmentally Disabled Adult Children

Who exactly is eligible for continued child support under the new law? Adult children who:

  • Are under the age of 26
  • Have a developmental disability diagnosed by a medical professional, including cognitive, physical, and mental disabilities. The disability must have originated before the child turned 22, and have continued or be expected to continue indefinitely.
  • Have a substantially impaired ability to function in society due to the disability
  • Live with the caregiver who is seeking support on their behalf.

In deciding whether child support should be awarded or extended under the new law, courts will consider the child’s disability, the mandatory child support calculation formula based on parental income, and whether the financial responsibility for caring for the child has been unreasonably placed on one parent.

Importantly, the law does not define what it means for the financial burden to have been “unreasonably placed” on one parent, so courts will be able to exercise discretion in interpreting that phrase. Accordingly, parents seeking or opposing an extended support award should have an experienced attorney to develop and argue their position in court.

Work with a Skilled New York Child Support Attorney

New York’s new law extending child support for adult children with developmental disabilities will be a blessing to many families. Because the law was enacted only very recently, many parents of special needs children may be unaware of the impact it could have on their lives, and the lives of their young adult children. As with any new law that affects rights and obligations, it is likely that there will be significant litigation over the law’s application.

The attorneys of the Law Offices of Andreas Vasilatos, PLLC are prepared to go to court on our clients’ behalf regarding support for their children with disabilities. We are not only experienced family law attorneys; we are seasoned litigators. Should we need to advocate for your interests in a New York child support matter, we have not only the up-to-date legal knowledge but the courtroom skill to argue your case.

The Law Offices of Andreas Vasilatos, PLLC has two convenient locations: in Bayside, Queen, and at 7 World Trade Center in Manhattan. The firm serves clients in all five boroughs of New York City as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. We invite you to learn more about our firm and our team, and to contact us to schedule a consultation. We look forward to working with you.