Child Support for Adult Children with Disabilities, Part 1

Generally speaking, in Tennessee if the parents of a child are not married, one of those parents will be required to pay child support to the parent who takes care of the child most of the time.  This obligation normally will end when the child turns 18 and graduates from High School.

However, buried in the statues is a provision that says if the child is “disabled” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the obligation can extend to the child’s 21st birthday.   This is found at T.C.A. section 36-5-101 (k)(1).   I’ll address (k)(2) in my next entry.

It will be interesting to see how the recent revisions to the ADA will affect the above provision in the law.  On January 1st of 2009, a revision to the ADA took effect which dramatically broadened this definition of “disabled”.   For more detail, see this article:

ADA Amendments Expand Definition of “Disabled”

I have not witnessed this new definition used to extend child support past the age of 18, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be done.  This would help single parents who still need to care for a child who has some sort of condition, even if the “disability” isn’t so severe as to prevent the child from working, going to college, or otherwise leading a productive life.

Because the new definition of “disability” is so broad, this could potentially cover expenses for medication, supplies, and other items for children with high blood pressure, hearing loss, asthma, ADD, or anything else that affects a major life activity.  The possibility exists for a parent to gain continued assistance for an adult child with these conditions, and I think, at least in certain cases, that parents should be awarded this help.


  1. […] I wrote about continuing child support for adult children who were disabled within the definition of the American with Disabilities Act.  However, this support will only […]

  2. Dana,

    I believe the court would not be able to restart the child support. Once the order is “terminated”, it’s gone forever. The one exception would be if there were good reason to “set aside” the termination, but that would require proof that the child support never should have been terminated in the first place.

    SSDI or SSI may be the best option, as either also comes with health care. Feel free to call me at 615-242-1001 if you’d like to talk more about it. There may be other options available to you.

  3. Dana says:

    Scenario: child support order is terminated due to child reaching age of majority, but after completing high school in June. At age 19 or 20, same child gets sick and is diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy. She is not yet approved for SSI or SSD.
    Question: If she were to be approved, would the court be allowed to restart child support due to her becoming disabled? Or would she simply be eligible to receive SSD based on father’s social security work history? Thanks