By: Devon Walke
Devon Walke is an Associate Attorney at WhitbeckBennett. He was born and raised in Oklahoma, never venturing too far from his hometown of Norman, attending the University of Oklahoma for both undergraduate studies and law school. Devon served another brief stint with the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office before accepting a position with a small family law practice in Norman, OK. He practiced there for 4.5 years, focusing on family law matters ranging from issues related to divorce, paternity, custody, visitation and child support modification proceedings (for both minor and disabled adult children), guardianships (for minors and adults), actions for contempt, probate and estate planning. To learn more about Devon Walke, click here.
Support for Disabled Adult Children
Over the last few years, we have seen a noticeable increase in cases involving support for disabled adult children.
Long gone is the notion that non-custodial parents of disabled children are only obligated to provide support until their kiddo turns 18 years old, or graduates high school (otherwise known as attaining the “age of majority”). Oklahoma law allows parents and/or guardians of disabled children, who are over the age of 18 and are no longer enrolled in high school, to seek and obtain the support they so desperately need, for as long as they need it. If you have a child with disabilities and/or are the guardian of such an individual, if you have gone through a divorce or paternity action, or if you anticipate going through either, it is important that you seek the advice of trusted counsel, to ensure that you understand your rights and those of your child or ward. This is of particular importance and urgency if your child is disabled, and nearing adulthood. In order to continue receiving support for your disabled soon-to-be adult child, you must first be named his or her legal guardian (as your legal authority over the child expires upon him or her attaining the age of majority).
One of our attorneys would be happy to meet with you to assist you in determining if, and when, you should begin moving forward with guardianship proceedings to ensure that your child is not left vulnerable and receives the full extent of the support to which he or she is entitled.
Support for disabled adult children is not so straightforward as the plug-and-play formula set forth in Oklahoma’s Child Support Guidelines for minor children. Evolving case law in the realm of disabled adult child support has resulted in a more dynamic approach for determining the amount of support that is appropriate in the cases of disabled adults, as opposed to the very mechanical approach used for minor children. While Oklahoma law requires that the relative incomes of each parent be taken into consideration as a factor in determining child support for all children, once disabled children become adults, the income ratio of their parents becomes just one of several variables that Oklahoma courts are required to consider when calculating an appropriate amount of support for that child.
As the disabled child approaches the age of majority, the clock is ticking on your window to obtain a guardianship over him or her without leaving a gap in time wherein your child will be vulnerable to the legal and financial pitfalls that are increasingly likely to befall a disabled child who has reached the legal age of adulthood, yet does not possess the physical and/or mental capacity to care for him/herself and/or his/her property and finances (i.e., any income the child receives if capable of employment, housing, SSI payments and/or numerous other government and private benefits to which the child may be entitled).
The general difference between basic child support (for minor children) and support for disabled adults, is that child support for minor children is very much formulaic–subject to determination with relative ease by inputting known quantities into a pre-determined equation.
The “formula” for disabled adults, on the other hand, is peeled back and expanded–designed to allow Courts to comprehensively examine the unique situation of the disabled adult child, and take into consideration the individual needs and concerns specific to each. Ultimately, the hope is that the increased complexity involved in this process is outweighed by the benefit inured to the child by allowing the Courts the capability of tailoring support in each case to the very unique needs and circumstances of every disabled adult child.
Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our attorneys to assist you in making this complicated transition in the life of your child a little easier for both of you. We would love to help you make sure you have all the tools necessary to provide your child with the appropriate level of care and support that his or her particular situation demands.
It is our hope that the knowledge, experience, and passion we bring to the table will allow you to rest assured that your legal needs are being met, allowing you to spend more time focusing on what matters most.
At WhitbeckBennett, we have several partners and associates with extensive litigation experience. If you need help with an upcoming deposition, give us a call to set up a consultation.