Parents have the legal obligation to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of majority. In Illinois, that age is typically 18. When a child is disabled, however, one or both parents may be required to continue financial support under certain circumstances.
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), when a child is mentally or physically disabled and unable to financially support himself/ herself after reaching the age of majority, the courts may order that financial support is provided indefinitely. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a major life activity. While application for extended financial support may be made before or after the disabled child reaches the age of majority, the disability in question must have been present when the child was still eligible for child support.
Funds can be awarded from the property or income of the parent(s), or the estate of a deceased parent. In some situations, financial support may be paid to one of the parents. Money can also be paid to an acceptable trust that was established for the sole benefit of the adult child with a disability. When making awards for the extended financial support of a disabled non-minor, or deciding on a motion to terminate, decrease or otherwise modify an order for support, the courts will evaluate a number of factors including:
- The present income and financial resources of both parents and the future resources available for them to meet their own needs. This can even include savings for retirement.
- The standard of living the disabled child would have likely experienced had the marriage remained intact.
- The financial resources available to the child.
- Other resources being provided to the child or for the benefit of the disabled non-minor. Examples of these types of resources include home based support services as provided under the Home-Based Support Services Law for Mentally Disabled Adults, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and any other local, state or federal resources available to the disabled child.
The Burden of Proof
In order to successfully achieve extended financial support for a disabled non-minor, a child support lawyer must prove to the courts that a physical or mental disability exists, and that the disability prevents the child from being capable of self-support. Additionally, in the state of Illinois it must be established that the disability arose before the child reached the age of majority.