In Pennsylvania, parents are by law, required to support their children until they turn 18, or graduate high school, whichever happens later. This means that whether your children are living with you or not, you are legally required to support them for at least 18 years.
A parent has to financially support their children even if they’re disabled, unemployed, on workers’ compensation, or incarcerated. Generally, the main way parents lawfully avoid paying child support is for their parental rights to be terminated because the child is put up for adoption, a parent committed severe child abuse or the child is adopted by a stepparent and both parents agree to let a parent terminate their parental rights.
“But what about children with disabilities? Can the court order parents to support their disabled adult children beyond the age of 18?” Read on as we answer this question.
Does Child Support End at 18 for Disabled Children?
The age of majority in the United States is 18, meaning 18 is the age that a person is considered an adult and is no longer a minor. Once someone reaches the age of 18, they can make the choices that adults are allowed to make, such as renting their own apartment, enrolling themselves in college, getting credit cards, taking out an auto loan, buying a house, adopting an animal from the shelter, voting, and so on.
In by far the majority of states (New York is one exception), parents are no longer obligated to support their children once they turn 18, or graduate high school, whichever happens later. But there is one exception to the rule and that is adult children with disabilities.
If an adult child is mentally or physically disabled to the point where they cannot support themselves, the family courts do maintain the right to order the parents to financially support their children beyond the age of 18.
“Most often, courts define "disability" in economic terms, i.e., the inability of the adult disabled child to adequately care for himself/herself by earning a living by reason of mental or physical infirmity,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In Pennsylvania, parents may have to support their adult children with disabilities if their child has a physical or mental disability that exists when the child turns 18, and it prevents the child from supporting themselves or emancipating.