There are many things to consider when you're a parent of a child with special needs. An important concern is whether your child can take care of himself or herself once he or she turns 18. If not, what is the best way to address this issue for you, your child, and your family? Guardianship? A power of attorney? Once you figure that out, you may ask yourself, how will my family and I accomplish this? How will my family and I afford this? If the parents of a child with special needs happen to be getting divorced, these concerns can seem even more overwhelming.
As a general rule, child support terminates when a child emancipates. In Illinois, a child emancipates when the child turns 18 or, if the child has turned 18 but is still in high school, when the child graduates from high school or turns age 19, whichever is earlier. However, there is an exception for adult children with special needs. Under Section 513.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, a judge “may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the support of a child of the parties who has attained majority when the child is mentally or physically disabled and not otherwise emancipated.” In other words, a parent can be ordered to continue to pay child support for an adult child if the child is mentally or physically disabled as defined by the statute. To be considered “disabled” under the statute, your child must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”