Once upon a time, a child support order that was placed upon a non-residential parent was terminated upon that parent’s child emancipating at age 18 or graduating from high school. Then in 1984, Castle v. Castle, 15 Ohio St. 3d 279 (1984), changed that when the Supreme Court of Ohio said that parents have a moral and legal obligation to their children beyond the age of majority for children who are unable to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations. This case followed a trend amongst many states throughout the land and these became known as Castle children.
The Ohio legislature further codified the case law set forth in Castle v. Castle by passing Ohio R.C. 3119.86 in 2001 by saying that child support could be extended for children that were determined to have such physical or mental limitations prior to reaching the age of majority. This made the Castle case law in Ohio but parents must be aware and plan ahead if they expect to receive child support for special needs children beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday. In order to receive support as a “Castle” case, the child must be mentally or physically disabled and the parents must have agreed to continue support beyond the child’s eighteenth birthday or the support must be required by a court order. Such documentation of the child’s limitations should be written into a Divorce Decree prior to that special needs child’s emancipation in order to protect the parents, especially the obligee parents, from any questions that may arise in post-decree action later on.
As recently as 2012, there was been a divide in Ohio counties in awarding child support for adult special needs children for parents who divorce and the child has already reached the age of majority. Some districts, including the 12th District (which includes Preble, Warren, Butler, Clermont, Preble, Fayette, Brown and Highland Counties) do award adult “child support” for special needs children” while the 10th District (which is made up of Franklin County) and others do not. It is important to address the issue of whether or not you think you may need child support for a child that may have disabilities that may limit their ability to care for themselves or live independently in the future. The best way forward is to be proactive. In the long run it will result in a happy ending for you and your child.