As child support lawyers in Denver, the attorneys at Plog & Stein,
P.C. deal with simple and intricate matters related to child support.
Though most child support cases are fairly black-and-white, with incomes
and other factors which lead to a child support calculation and monthly
figure being apparent, there are instances in which deviations from the
norm are warranted under statute. One such instance relates to children
with special needs and the financial ramifications that may ensue as a
result of such, and as per statute.
Specifically, C.R.S. 14-10-115, the general Colorado child support statute,
sets forth two instances in which a child’s disability may impact
child support. One such instance relates to when the duty to pay child
support terminates. The other concerns disability payments a child may
receive from the Social Security Administration for his or her disability.
The general rule of thumb followed by Colorado family law attorneys is
that child support, or the duty to pay such, terminates when a child reaches
19 years of age. However, there are exceptions, one of which is that child
support can extend beyond that age for a child who is “disabled.”
Specifically, C.R.S. 14-10-115(13)(II) states that child support can continue
“If the child is mentally or physically disabled, the court or the
delegate child support enforcement unti may order child support, includng
payments for medical expenses or insurance or both, to continue beyond
the age of nineteen.” However, statue does not necessarily define
“disabled”. In many instances, disability is readily apparent.
In others, disability may not be readily seen, such as in cases of autism.
Statute makes no distinction and, again, includes “mental”
as well as physical. It is often the case that parents will obtain Social
Security benefits for a child, which can continue after the child reaches age 19.
Most courts will take the designation of “disabled” by the
Social Security Administration to be proof enough of the disability. However,
some courts may take a deeper look into the factual circumstances. One
can receive Social Security, yet still be able to work, function independently,
go to school, etc. Each case is different from a factual standpoint and
a Denver child support attorney should be able to assist in ascertaining
the strengths and weaknesses of a request to extend child support beyond
age 19 due to disability.
A second aspect in which the disability of a child may come into play
as relates to child support also ties into Social Security. Pursuant to
statute, C.R.S. 14-10-115 (11)(b) authorizes adjustments or deductions
to the normal child support guideline amounts based upon “Any additional
factors that actually diminish the basic needs of the child….”
The most common instance in which we see this clause invoked relates to
income of the child. In fact, the software that we attorneys use to calculate
Colorado child support actually has a section for purposes of inputting
income of a child. This income would also include Social Security benefits
received by a disabled child. Of course, the presumption is that the money
received is being used to reduce the child’s basic financial needs,
meaning it is being spent on essentials such as food, clothing, and shelter.
This presumption is also an expectation of the Social Security Administration.
The Social Security benefits received will generally go into the child
support calculation on the side or column for the person with whom the
disabled child resides. By adding the income to the column, the bottom
line child support amount goes down. The irony with this scenario is that
as child support goes down, the Social Security payment can go up, and
as the Social Security payment goes up, child support can go down. Thus,
a circular pattern and logistical issue can arise. However, statute alleviates
this issue somewhat by requiring a 10% or more change to the existing
child support amount before a C.R.S. 14-10-122 modification of child support
When dealing with issues related to child support, Social Security, and
your disabled child, it is important to know the ins and outs on the subject.
Becoming aware of these intricacies should absolutely entail discussions
with the Social Security Administation to learn exactly how a child support
order can affect the benefit to be received.
Finally, the perplexing aspect of this analysis to this Denver family law
attorney is that statute allows for continued support of a disabled child,
yet may very well authorize the lowering of that support should federal
benefits be gained. At this time, there is no easy fix to the conundrum.
Your child will always be your child. Some will need the financial assistance
of their parents longer than others. Fortunately, the Colorado legislature
recognizes this and makes allowances for such in the child support statutes.