Child Support for Children with Disabilities

When you think of child support, you think of a child, as in someone under eighteen years old. 

Turns out the law is a strange thing sometimes. In Utah a child for the purpose of child support might just be an adult. Let me explain how this works.

There are certain categories of adults who can receive child support. The most common is a child who has turned eighteen but hasn't graduated from high school. In this case, child support ends when the eighteen-year-old graduates.

Another less common category is adult children with disabilities so severe they are legally incapacitated. In fact, Utah law defines a "child" who can receive child support as:


[A] son or daughter of any age who is incapacitated from earning a living and, if able to provide some financial resources to the family, is not able to support self by own means.

Utah Code, Section 78b-12-102(c).

What this means in real life is a parent can be obligated to pay child support for an incapacitated child. Unlike the high school student, however, there is no age limit on this potential obligation.

So, depending on the level of disability a parent could end up paying child support for a disabled child for the length of that child's life.

This usually doesn't happen, however, because most incapacitated children end up receiving some sort of disability benefits, whether from Utah or from the federal government (e.g., Social Security Disability).

Most of these benefits are means-tested, which means if the incapacitated child makes too much money, he or she will lose benefits or benefits will be decreased by the amount of money made. 

In light of this, many parents choose not to require child support because those child support payments would decrease or preclude benefits. That's not a good deal for cash-strapped families, so they allow their children to receive the maximum amount in disability payments.

So, if you have a child with serious disabilities, you need to look and see if continuing child support into adulthood is an appropriate option.

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