Disability and Child Support in Tennessee
If you have special needs children and are contemplating a divorce in Tennessee then the question of child support needs to be seriously reviewed with a family law attorney. In Tennessee there are provisions for disability child support. In other words, Tennessee law recognizes the need for child support for disabled children. However, there are some limitations to support for adult disabled children.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently reinforced the statutory limitations for awards of child support for an adult disabled child.
In the case of Edith Nell Allen Shaw v. Jerry Emerson Shaw. In the Shaw case the mother filed for divorce after the couple’s disabled child turned 18 years old. The trial court granted the divorce and ordered the Father to pay child support for the adult disabled child of the parties. About four years after the divorce was granted the mother filed a petition to modify child support, which was granted by the trial court. The father then appealed the order modifying and continuing support for their severely disabled child on the grounds that he child was an adult. The Court of Appeals agreed with the father and held that the divorce court lacked jurisdiction to order child support as a part of the divorce as the child was over eighteen at the time the complaint for divorce was filed.
[important]Family law and domestic relations issues can be very complex, as well as very emotionally overwhelming, choose your attorney wisely. [/important]
Tennessee law provides that under certain circumstances that child support can be continued for a child that is severely disabled.
The court’s are specifically authorized to continue support for a severely disabled child until the age of 21, or even beyond that age in certain instances so long as the disabled adult child remains living with one of the parents. The Court of Appeals, however, has held that the key word in the statue is “continue”. Thus a Tennessee court has no jurisdiction (or authority) to initiate child support for a child over the age of 18 at the time of the filing of a divorce complaint. The courts only have the authority to continue child support which was originally ordered while the disabled child was a minor.
Child support is an issue that is typically well-settled in law and there is very little room for the trial court to exercise its own discretion or for the parties to agree to child support outside of the guidelines.
Obviously as with any legal issue, in a domestic relations issue and child support, an attorney is absolutely necessary to ensure that your legal rights are protected. A family law attorney that is experienced will explore the facts of the case, the relevant law, including the holding of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Courts of Tennessee. Of course choosing the right divorce or family law attorney can be a difficult task, so how do you choose the right lawyer?