Figuring out child support in a divorce is a complex enough matter under any circumstances. It requires you to show financial evidence and the court to use a formula to decide on the payment amount. As you experience life changes, you can seek a modification of the original child support order.
But what about when you have a child with special needs? How does that affect the amount and duration of the payment in Virginia?
When the child is under 18
All minor children, regardless of health status, qualify for child support. The difference with a special needs child is that the court will factor in any additional expenses Virginia law does not already cover when determining the amount. Examples of further costs are therapy, special education, social skills development, job training and medical treatment. The definition of special needs includes any medical, physical or emotional condition.
When the child turns 18
Under normal circumstances, child support obligations end at the age of 18 (unless the child is still in high school, living at home and financially dependent on the parent receiving the child support payments). However, for those with special needs, child support can continue into adulthood as long as they meet the following requirements:
- The disability already existed before age 18 and is severe and permanent.
- The adult child can neither support himself or herself nor live independently.
- The adult child lives with the parent receiving the child support payments.
In the past, this rule only applied to orders already in place. However, an amendment to the law now allows parents to initiate an original child support order for a divorce that happens after the child’s 18th birthday if the child meets the above qualifications.
Whether you are the payer or payee, your adult child should not have to suffer for your divorce. Speak to a family law attorney with experience in these kinds of cases to help with the financial security of your special needs son or daughter.