Child Support for Adults with Disabilities

Lerch Early's Legal Update

If you have an adult child with disabilities and are separated, divorced or in the process of divorcing , you may be obligated to provide support for your adult child.

Maryland law requires parents to provide for their “adult destitute children.” Adult destitute children is a legal term for adult children who have insufficient resources and because of mental or physical infirmity have insufficient income to enable them to meet their reasonable living expenses.

In determining whether a person qualifies as an adult destitute child under Maryland law, the court looks at the person’s assets, eligibility for disability or other assistance and earning capacity, and weighs these factors against what the person needs for a proper level of subsistence.

Calculating Support for Adult Destitute Children

To establish the amount of support a parent must provide for an adult destitute child, the court looks to the statutory child support guidelines for non-disabled minor children.

Although these guidelines also apply in cases of adult destitute children, when determining support for an adult destitute child the court is required also to consider the adult destitute child’s financial needs and circumstances.

Often the simple application of the child support guidelines is unsuitable because adult destitute children have special needs that must be considered, such as medical, educational, training or other needs.

In Corby v. McCarthy, , the Court of Special Appeals found that the statutory child support guidelines apply in cases of adult disabled children and can be used as a starting point in determining child support with consideration of the child’s financial circumstances. In Corby, the Court of Special Appeals held that the trial court erred in failing to allot an appropriate amount for suitable housing and health insurance for the child in determining the child’s expenses.

The Effect of Benefits on Child Support

Often, adult destitute children receive benefits such as disability dependency, retirement dependency, other third party dependency, or other benefit as a result of a claim. In this case, the amount of the benefit is set off against the support obligation calculated using the child support guidelines. If the compensation exceeds the child support obligation under the guidelines, the excess payment is credited to any overdue child support that accrued after the benefits were awarded, but not to any future child support obligation.

The receipt of child support can lower the amount of some public benefits that an adult destitute child is eligible to receive or can make an adult destitute child ineligible for a public benefit. The court only has the ability to order a parent to pay support. However, if an order of support will affect the public benefits for which an adult disabled child is eligible, the parents can agree that in lieu of support, payments for the benefit of their child can be made in another manner to avoid affecting the public benefits; for example, payments may be made into certain types of trusts (e.g., discretionary trust or supplemental needs trust).

Erin Kopelman is a family law attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more about calculating child support for adult destitute children or how to frame a support arrangement, contact Erin at (301) 347-1261 or

This content is for your information only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney before acting on any information contained here.


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