New Law Extends Child Support for Developmentally Disabled Adult Dependents
On October 8, 2021, a new law went into effect in New York that extended the age of child support eligibility for adult dependents with developmental disabilities. New York is the 41st state to enact this type of extended support. Prior to this new law, child support terminated at age 21 in New York. Now, a custodial parent can petition the court for child support for an adult dependent with disabilities up until the age of 26.
This new law is contained in NY Domestic Relations Law § 240-d and allows any custodial parent or caregiver of a developmentally disabled child who is dependent on that parent and resides with them to petition for child support. The Mental Hygiene Law defines a child with a “developmental disability” as one which “is attributable to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neurological impairment, familial dysautonomia, Prader-Willi syndrome or autism,” a condition of similar resulting impairment, or dyslexia. In addition, the disability must have originated before the child reached age 22, must continue and expect to continue indefinitely, and must constitute “a substantial handicap to such person’s ability to function normally in society.” See Mental Hygiene Law § 1.03 (22).
With the enactment of this law, there are some uncertainties and ambiguities that will need to be sorted out by the courts. Parents who already have child support cases pending but not completed may be wondering whether this new law can apply in their case. Parents who have entered settlement agreements delineating support until the child turns 21 may be wondering if the new law can still be applied beyond age 21 if they have an eligible disabled child. Additionally, what happens if parents wait too long to request an extension of support as the child nears the age of 26?While there are many uncertainties, what is clear from the new law is that parents may only petition the court for the extended child support if the child has not yet reached the age of 26 and if the child fits the definition of developmentally disabled from the Mental Hygiene Law. New York law allows courts to modify prior child support orders, which means that eligible custodial parents with previous orders can petition the courts for a modification pursuant to the change in law.
Children with developmental disabilities often require assistance and support well beyond the age of majority. Parents often rely on programs and assistance through local school districts, but once the child ages out of those programs, it may be difficult for a parent to afford other means of care. This extended child support can give a custodial parent the help they need to give their child the proper means of support. It gives the parent more time to plan for the future and determine next steps for their developmentally disabled child’s care, while having financial support from the noncustodial parent along the way.
Custodial parents that are seeking to prove their child is developmentally disabled and that they are entitled to extended child support should work with an experienced family law attorney to help them navigate this process. An attorney can gather all the proper documentation and evidence needed to prove your entitlement to child support under this new law. If you find yourself in need of child support for your developmentally disabled child, contact the attorneys at Fass & Greenberg to get the support you and your child deserve. We are experienced in child support matters and will help you navigate this new law and any uncertainties that may surround it.