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Child support considerations for disabled children

Under California law, both parents are legally responsible for providing their children with adequate support for their day-to-day needs. When couples divorce, family courts generally use California's child support guidelines as a way to determine just how much support each parent should pay. Generally, courts will examine the income of both parents as well as which parent provides the principal source of care and housing for the children involved. That parent is often referred to as the custodial parent.

In most scenarios, a family law judge will order a noncustodial parent to pay child support to the custodial parent. The logic of those determinations are based on the idea that whomever has principal custody of the children will invariably incur more expenses related to their care. That is especially true when the custodial parent is also raising a child with special needs.

For example, a special needs child may need modification to their home or to the vehicle that provides their primary means of transportation. Those children may also need additional behavioral therapies. A good example of this is the so-called "applied behavior analysis" treatments. This type of therapy is used to teach children suffering from autism or other intellectual disabilities to communicate more effectively. The frequency and costs of these treatments can change over time as the affected children develop.

These additional costs can place a significant burden on a custodial parent. Fortunately, California law allows parents to seek modifications of existing child support orders under certain circumstances. Additionally, California's child support laws can extend the child support obligation for parent beyond the child's 18th birthday in some cases.

An attorney with experience in California family law can assist you in determining whether your particular situation might merit further review from the court. Although each case is different, in some cases, a judge may amend an existing child support order to increase support payments.

Source: California Legislature, "Family code section 4050-4076," accessed June 11, 2015

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