Mississippi Supreme Court to Re-Visit the Issue of Child Support for Disabled Adult Children

The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to take another look at an interesting child support question it first addressed several months ago.  In June of 2013, the Supreme Court heard a case arising out of Hinds County in which the plaintiff sought a modification of child support as well as alimony from her ex-husband for the care of their adult son who suffered from a serious medical ailment.  The court agreed with the chancery judge who had denied the request for modification.  It reasoned that the current state law does not require parents to financially support their children once they attain the age of 21.  Further, the Legislature has not passed any law requiring parents pay support for disabled children over the age of 21.  Accordingly, the court saw no justification for granting a modification of support.

The case now before the Supreme Court is strikingly similar but will concern a different legal question—which might make all the difference in the decision of the justices.  The case arises out of Madison County and again involves a disabled child over the age of majority.  Here, however, the justices have asked the parties and the attorney general’s office to provide briefs on the issue of whether the denial of child support to disabled children over the age of 21 violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment where the disabled child is incapable of self-support due to a mental or physical limitation.

This equal protection issue was actually raised by the Supreme Court on its own, and not by the parties.  In the original Hinds County case, Justice Leslie King spoke for the minority and felt the case should be returned to the chancellor who could then determine whether the disabled child should ever have been considered emancipated.  Emancipation is defined as the age at which the child leaves the control of a parent, and in Mississippi this age is 21.  However, according to King, where the child is disabled before reaching the age of 21, and is incapable of self-support, he or she is unable to be emancipated and child support should thus continue until his or her status changes in this regard.  The majority, however, rejected this argument, finding the child support duty of a parent does not extend beyond the age of 21, and only the legislature has the power to grant the authority to require the parent provide support beyond this period.

Many other states have statutes specifically in place requiring continued support for disabled children even after they have attained the age of majority.  Still others allow awards of child support to adult disabled children through case law precedence.  The case now before the Supreme Court could have significant implications for the parents of older disabled children.  Often, caretaker parents of disabled adult children are left shouldering a significant burden.  Though their child is over 21, they continue to require physical and financial support.  While it seems the Supreme Court is attempting to craft a means of ordering child support for adult disabled children through the equal protection argument, time will tell whether the majority of the justices agree.

Matthew S. Poole has helped thousands of parents secure the child support necessary to adequately provide for their child’s wants and needs.  With years of experience in the realm of divorce law and expert knowledge in the field of child support, Matthew will fight for you to receive the support your children are entitled to.  Call Matthew S. Poole today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a free initial consultation.

Tags: ,