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Can a Judge Order Me to Support My Disabled Adult Child?

Under normal circumstances, a child support order in Texas only lasts until a child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. But if the child suffers from a serious physical or mental disability, a judge may order either or both parents to continue providing “indefinite” support during the child’s adulthood. Section 154.302 of the Texas Family Code only permits such extended child support awards, however, if the judge determines that “the disability exists, or the cause of the disability is known to exist, on or before the 18th birthday of the child.”

Court Orders Father to Continue Support for Adult Son With Rare Blood Disorder

For example, in a recent case from Eastland, Texas, a state appeals court upheld a judge’s decision ordering the father of a disabled adult son to continue paying approximately $1,600 per month in child support. The father claimed his obligations should have ended when his son turned 18, because there was insufficient evidence that the son’s disability was known before that time.

But the courts disagreed with that assessment. According to evidence presented by the child’s mother in Family Court, when their son was 15, he suffered a series of strokes. At that time, doctors diagnosed him with Moyamoya disease, a rare disorder that blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Indeed, the doctors also determined the son had suffered “previously undiagnosed strokes” due to his Moyamoya disease.

As a result of his condition, the doctors determined the son had “a number of behavioral and cognitive health problems,” which left him unable to do math above a “kindergarten level” or “maintain steady employment” in the adult world. The mother also testified that the son “requires constant supervision” and cannot provide basic care for himself. In response, the husband argued his son was not disabled and “could hold a job somewhere like a grocery store.”

But the appeals court pointed to the father’s admission that his son sustained “brain damage” during the prior strokes and his Moyamoya disease “would never go away,” as proof that the father knew of his child’s disability prior to the son’s 18th birthday. Nor did the appeals court accept the father’s argument that the judge lacked the authority to modify its original child support order–which was issued during the parents’ 1997 divorce–as the court “retains its jurisdiction over the child.” Furthermore, Texas law expressly allows courts to hear support claims regarding adult disabled children “regardless of the age of the child.”

Need Help From a Houston Child Support Lawyer?

Child support disputes often continue beyond the original divorce or decision. If you are faced with a support issue and need advice from an experienced Galveston family law attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.