North Carolina provides child support guidelines for determining the presumptive child support obligation in cases where the parents’ combined income does not exceed $300,000 per year. In high income cases where the parents’ combined income exceeds the guidelines, or when a child has special needs and the amount of support due under the guidelines would not meet the reasonable needs of the child, child support is determined on a case-by- case basis. There are no special guidelines for determining child support of a disabled child.
A parent’s obligation to pay child support for a disabled child terminates under the same events and circumstances that it terminates for any other child. Even when a child is mentally or physically incapable of being self-sufficient, the child’s disability does not legally obligate a parent to continue paying child support beyond the normal circumstances that child support would terminate, such as attaining age 18. A parent may enter into an agreement or legally binding contract with the child’s other parent (or other parties) obligating himself or herself to provide support for an adult disabled child. However, in the absence of an enforceable contract or agreement, a parent has no legal duty to support a child who is over the age of 18 and not enrolled in primary or secondary school. Voluntarily agreeing to provide financial support for a child beyond that which is required by law is a matter that should be given careful consideration. Even though you may have your child’s best interests at heart, your financial condition could change due to health reasons or other matters beyond your control.
A minor child’s disability does not preclude either parent from seeking custody or visitation with the child, and a court may award custody and/or visitation to either parent. Additional provisions in North Carolina law (N. C. G. S. § 50-13.8) authorize the District Court to determine custody
of a child who has reached the age of majority and who is mentally or physically incapable of self support in the same manner as a minor child for so long as the adult child remains mentally or physically incapable of self support. This distinction in the law allows a parent to be awarded custody of an adult disabled child as long as the child has not been declared incompetent and had a Guardian appointed.
If the adult child has been found to be incompetent, a parent may apply to the Clerk of Superior Court to be awarded the legal guardianship of the adult child. The clerk of court has the power to appoint a Guardian and award the Guardian custody of an adult child who is found to be
Attorney Daphne Edwards of the law firm of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan provides legal representation to clients in a broad spectrum of family related legal matters, including child custody and child support. She understands the decisions made in your case, whether negotiated by settlement or mandated by court order, can have long-term and far-reaching consequences. Ms. Edwards is committed to helping clients achieve their goals and find lasting solutions to their family related legal problems.