Child support, its amount and its duration are often among the most contentious issues in Texas divorces involving minor children. Parents who get child support want enough to offset some of their expenses, while parents paying it often want to keep it as low as possible and end it as soon as they can.
For most families, child support obligations end either when the child graduates high school or turns 18, whichever happens last. In some uncontested divorces or divorces with prenuptial agreements, spouses may have made an arrangement for child support to continue through college if necessary as a means of sharing the costs of higher education, although the courts typically won’t set such terms on their own.
However, there are circumstances in which a family will continue to incur substantial expenses for the care of a child long after they finish high school or turn 18. Children with special needs and disabilities may not achieve independence and could require the care of a custodial parent for the rest of their life. In that scenario, the custodial parent could potentially seek a longer term or even permanent order of child support.
The child’s disability will need to develop prior to adulthood
There are many nuances to the process of securing permanent child support for a child with special needs or a disability. One of the most important requirements is that the parents discovered the disability prior to the child reaching adulthood according to the existing child support laws in Texas.
Some children are born with special needs, making it relatively straightforward for the parents to ask the court to consider their medical needs and future expenses when ordering the duration of child support during a divorce. Other times, issues such as traumatic brain injuries from a car crash could result in disabilities developing later in life.
Provided that the disability gets diagnosed prior to the child’s 18th birthday, the custodial parent can likely go to the courts and ask them to consider the disability and review the child support order. The prognosis for the child and the likely duration of their disability will influence the length of the child support order. So long as the courts feel the child likely won’t achieve independence, it may be possible to secure permanent child support.