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Child Support for an Adult Disabled Child in Texas

Downs syndromeIn a recent Texas appellate decision, a father raised four issues related to a lower court’s provision of child support for his adult disabled child, among other things. The couple was married in 1992 and had two kids, TWG and a minor daughter, EAG. In 2008, the father left the mother to move in with his girlfriend, only to move back in a few months later, claiming the other relationship was over. The mother and father signed a lease with a term of one year, but in another few months, the father left for his girlfriend again, which saddled the mother with $4,000 for the remainder of the lease.

The father had a child with his girlfriend and didn’t pay child support to either of his minor children with the mother until 2011, when the mother asked for child support through the Attorney General’s Office. The father began paying monthly child support but provided no other financial assistance and eventually sued for divorce. The mother counter-petitioned, asking for child support for both kids, a disproportionate share of the community estate, and damages from the father’s girlfriend.

The mother explained to the court that her adult son, TWG, had agenesis of the corpus collosum, a condition in which the fibers linking the right brain to the left brain had never developed. The son lived with his mother and would need support his whole life. He’d never gone to college and wasn’t employed. He saw a doctor every year and spent the night with the father in 2015 2-3 times in total. He required adult care, which cost $500 per month, and got a certain amount in SSI and SNAP benefits.

The mother testified she earned $50,000 on the job and had no retirement plan. She also acknowledged that her son went to his grandmother’s once or twice a month and sometimes stayed the week. She presented evidence at trial that the father had wasted community assets from their bank account and also testified that the father’s girlfriend texted her with taunts. The father meanwhile earned $52,000 in base salary and overtime, but his tax returns showed a higher income as well as a 401(k) with a balance of $76,695.09. The father provided $1,000 every month to his girlfriend and helped provide for their son.

The father’s girlfriend testified that she received money for residence and bills and that the father spent money for their son. She testified as to multiple vacations and stated she was a dentist who earned $200,000 each year.

The trial court found that the adult son needed substantial care and supervision due to his disability, and therefore it provided for child support. It also found the father had wasted assets and defrauded the community estate. The mother was awarded 80% of the father’s retirement account, among other things. The court granted a directed judgment in favor of the girlfriend. The marriage was dissolved on adultery grounds.

The father appealed. He argued the predicate facts for an adult disabled child didn’t exist. Section 154.302(a) provides that a trial court can order support for an adult disabled child for an indefinite period only when it finds:  (1) the child needs significant care and supervision due to the disability and can’t support himself, and (2) the disability existed before the 18th birthday of the child. The father argued there was no evidence TWG needed care and personal supervision. The appellate court disagreed, noting the child’s congenital disability. The mother had presented evidence of adult care expenses and the receipt of SSI and SNAP benefits. The appellate court also found that there was sufficient evidence regarding the factors to be considered to set adult child support.

If your divorce involves matters related to child support and parental rights, contact the Texas attorneys at the McClure Law Group at 214.692.8200.

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