In New York State, a custodial parent is entitled to an award of child support until the child(ren) reach twenty-one years old or are otherwise emancipated pursuant to the applicable law. Sometimes, during a matrimonial action, parties will enter into a written Stipulation of Settlement whereby they agree that child support will terminate upon a child’s twenty-second birthday if enrolled in college.
The “age of majority” varies in different states, and is based upon the assumption that when a child reaches said age, he/she is self supporting and no longer requires the financial assistance from his/her parents. While that may or may not be the case, the financial obligation of the non-custodial parent terminates upon the above ages, leaving the custodial parent (and/or the child) to assume full financial responsibility for the child’s needs.
Parents of children with any kind of disability know all too well the daily challenges, financial and otherwise, involved in the child’s care. Most often, these children need assistance beyond the “age of majority.” In October, 2021, New York joined the majority of states in recognizing the need for extended financial support for adult children over the age of twenty-one years old who have developmental disabilities as defined by Section 1.03 (22) of the Mental Hygiene Law. The new law amends the New York Domestic Relations Law and Family Court Act to permit a parent or “kinship caregiver” to petition the Court for a discretionary support order in connection with a developmentally disabled adult who is between the age of twenty-one to when the individual turns twenty-six years old. Pursuant to the applicable statute, “developmental disability" means a disability of a person which:
(1) is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurological impairment, familial dysautonomia, Prader-Willi syndrome or autism;
(2) is attributable to any other condition of a person found to be closely related to intellectual disability because such condition results in similar impairment of general intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior to that of intellectually disabled persons or requires treatment and services similar to those required for such person; or
(3) is attributable to dyslexia resulting from a disability described in subparagraph one or two of this paragraph;
(b) originates before such person attains age twenty-two;
(c) has continued or can be expected to continue indefinitely; and
(d) constitutes a substantial handicap to such person's ability to function normally in society.
This new law is a game changer, and will improve the quality of life for adult children with developmental disabilities, as well as their caregivers/parents.