Legislation would help disabled Ohio kids over 18 receive support

On Behalf of | May 22, 2024 | Family Law

When a parent is ordered to pay child support, that mandatory support typically ends when the child turns 18 or graduates from high school. However, many kids with serious disabilities aren’t able to support themselves at that age.

Generally, parents will continue to support their child, who will likely be eligible for government benefits as well. However, it’s not specifically required by state law.

Some Ohio state lawmakers hope to change that. A bill has just passed the Ohio House and will now be considered by the Senate that would prevent disabled kids from losing child support at 18.

What the legislation would do

The legislation would let judges “issue, pursuant to a proceeding for divorce, dissolution, legal separation, or annulment, an order of support for the care and maintenance of the parties’ child who is a person with a disability, regardless of whether the child has reached the age of majority.”

The proposed legislation, as currently written, would do even more. It would end the requirement that parents must have divorced before their child turned 18. Further, it would extend the law to include those with mental disabilities.

Thanks to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling, commonly known as the “Castle” decision, courts can order child support to continue after a child’s 18th birthday as long as the parents were divorced before then. However, only courts in certain areas of the state follow the “Castle” ruling. Therefore, there has not been consistency throughout the state. 

One of the bill’s sponsors says, “Ohio families’ lives are being impacted, and currently some of the most vulnerable citizens in this state are not receiving the critical care and support they need. We need consistency and fairness in the way family courts are approaching these situations to ensure equal treatment across the state.”

Many parents – particularly those who choose mediation or other alternative method of ending their marriage – typically negotiate the support of their disabled child for as long as it’s necessary. However, for parents who aren’t able to work this out themselves and need to turn to a judge for a ruling, these changes could make a significant difference.

Divorcing with a child is always complicated. When that child will likely need care and financial support into adulthood, it’s even more so. Having experienced legal guidance can help you protect your and your child’s rights.