Support of an Adult Child

A parent’s obligation to pay child support generally ends when the child turns 18 years of age.  There are two cases where the obligation to pay support continues beyond age 18:

  • An adult child who is an unmarried full-time high school student who is not self-supporting. Support continues until the child completes the 12th grade or attains age 19, whichever occurs first. Family Code Section 3901(a).
  • An adult child who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means. Family CodeSection 3910(a). In determining whether child has “sufficient means,” court should look to whether child’s assets were sufficient so as to make it unlikely that he/she will become a public charge. In Re Marriage of Drake (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 1139, 62.

Once the court makes a determination that an adult incapacitated child is without sufficient means, the amount of support is determined, then guideline support calculations is appropriate.  However, once the amount of child support has been calculated, then the Trial Court has discretion to reduce the amount of support based on the child’s independent income or assets, such as benefits paid by a public program or income from a trust.

Additionally, support for an adult child can be ordered by agreement of the parties.

In the second Drank case (2015), the Court ordered father to pay adult child support for Dallas who had been diagnosed with attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, psychotic disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and cannabis abuse.  Dallas had been living in a residential treatment center for 5 years at the time the order was made.  Upon review, the Court of Appeal upheld the order for adult support, but reversed the order that required Father to pay the support to Mother.  The Court explained that when the adult child is disabled and lives with the a parent who bears the primary financial responsibility for the child’s care, payment of support to the parent makes sense.  However, when the adult child lives in a residential facility and neither parent pays the basic living expenses, then the support is paid directly to the adult child.

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