Under Maryland law, parents are required to provide for their “adult destitute children”. “Adult destitute children” are adult children with mental or physical disabilities that make it difficult for them to obtain sufficient income to be able to meet their reasonable living expenses. The court examines assets, eligibility for disability and earning capacity to determine whether a person qualifies for this label.
A parent who divorces must be aware that the statutory child support guidelines apply not only to their minor children, but also their adult destitute child or children. In the case of an adult destitute child, there may be special needs, such as medical or training needs that a court will need to consider. Sums an adult destitute child receives, such as disability dependency benefits, may be set off against the support obligation. Parents may elect to make payments into trusts in order to avoid reducing the adult destitute child’s public benefits.
Adult destitute children may need to be considered when parents divorce and may also need to be considered whenever there are any significant changes in either of the parent’s income. In a relatively recent case, a Maryland appellate court considered whether to modify the amount a father paid in child support after a mother lost a significant amount of income. The divorced couple had three children, the oldest of which was born with mild mental retardation.
The trial judge found that the daughter with mild mental retardation qualified as a destitute adult child and therefore was entitled to continuing support from both parents. Because the mother’s salary had been decreased, the court calculated the amount of child support for the children using the parties’ new incomes. Among other things, the trial court calculated this sum using Maryland’s child support guidelines and the father’s child support obligations were increased.
The father appealed. He argued that the trial court had erred in determining that the daughter was a destitute adult child because the court didn’t consider the daughter’s trust, didn’t make findings of fact on the daughter’s reasonable living expenses, and didn’t weigh the daughter’s expenses against her resources. The mother argued that the trust was not currently available to the daughter and that testimony showed that the daughter’s reasonable expenses left her a destitute adult child.
The Court of Special Appeals explained that only currently available resources could be considered in determining whether someone was an adult destitute child so the trial court had properly excluded consideration of this trust. Moreover, the court explained the adult destitute child does not need to be absolutely penniless to be entitled to the parent’s financial support. An adult destitute child might have reasonable expenses that exceeded his or her means in order to ask for parental support. The court reasoned that the trial court had properly considered evidence on all of the expenses that the mother was claiming, including tuition, transportation and medical expenses.
The appellate court concluded that the trial court had correctly found that the daughter was an adult destitute child. It reasoned there are two types of adult destitute children. There were those who had no financial resources or ability to earn. There were also those who had financial resources but were destitute because of a discrepancy between what was needed to live and what they possessed to pay their bills.
If you are handling a difficult family law matter such as the one described above, your child’s well being may depend on hiring a qualified and knowledgeable attorney who can navigate the rules for you. Contact lawyer Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
Maryland Appellate Court Dismisses Important Child Custody Case As Moot, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 24, 2013
Maryland Court Decides Railroad Retirement Benefit Case, Maryland Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2013