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Child Support and Financial Maintenance for Dependent Disabled Adult Children


In February 2017 a law went into effect that says that unless a court orders otherwise (including an order reached by agreement of the parties), child support will end when a child turns 19. Child support may be continued beyond that date, if the child is in school or a state or federal agency has determined that the child is disabled. For more details on that law, see New Jersey’s New Child Support Termination Law.

For more information about the new child support termination statute, please see the website of the New Jersey Office of Child Support Services Termination Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

When does child support end for dependent disabled adult children?

Under the child support termination statute, child support will end at the age of 19 unless a court orders another date. If a parent provides the court with documents showing that a state or federal agency has determined that the child is disabled, the court may allow child support to continue beyond the age of 19. See New Jersey’s New Child Support Termination Law for more details on applying to continue child support beyond age 19, and for details on what happens when child support is terminated.

Child support will end on (or before) the child’s 23rd birthday, even when an adult child is eligible for child support beyond age 19, due to the child’s disability. There is no way to continue child support beyond the child’s 23rd birthday. But an adult disabled child may be eligible for financial maintenance from the non-custodial parent.

Converting child support to financial maintenance. For disabled adult children 23 or older, either the child or the parent may apply to convert the child support to ongoing support from the non-custodial parent, which is called “financial maintenance.”

What is financial maintenance?

Financial maintenance is a new legal term that was created in the child support termination statute. It means the financial support that a parent is ordered to pay for the benefit of a dependent adult child after the age of 23. There are some key differences between financial maintenance and child support.

The primary difference is that child support is usually collected and enforced through Probation in New Jersey. Financial maintenance cannot be enforced or collected through Probation.

For child support, Probation has many extraordinary collection tools that are not available for enforcing other debts, such as tax offsets and license suspensions.

Where do I file for financial maintenance?

If the disabled adult child has been declared incapacitated by a court, and letters of guardianship issued, a motion to convert child support to financial maintenance should be filed in the New Jersey Superior Court–Probate Part through the Surrogate’s Office.

If there is no guardianship over the disabled adult child, the request by the parent or adult child to convert child support to financial maintenance should be filed in the New Jersey Superior Court–Family Part.

How much financial maintenance will be awarded?

In New Jersey, there are charts and a mathematical formula to determine how much child support should be paid, based primarily upon the incomes of both parents. These are called the Child Support Guidelines.
There are no guidelines for financial maintenance and there is no law that specifically allows courts to use the Child Support Guidelines to determine the amount of a financial maintenance award.

The child support termination statute says child support may be “converted” to financial maintenance. This suggests (but does not clearly state) that the amount of child support at the time of conversion will be applied to the financial maintenance.

The parent or child applying for financial maintenance should include a case information statement  to detail the household income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. This will help the court assess how much to award for financial maintenance. Be sure to include any expenses that are required because of the child’s disability. You may find the case information statement in the Self-Help Resource Center on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website, .

You may request that the financial maintenance be the same amount as the child support was, or you may ask for an increase. But you will need to show the court why an increase makes sense (for example, a change in the income of one or both of the parents, another change in circumstances, additional expenses in caring for the disabled adult child).

How will financial maintenance impact benefits from the Social Security Administration?

Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefits. If all of the following are true, your child may be eligible for Social Security DAC benefits:

  • Child is currently 18 years old or older.
  • Child was disabled before age 22.
  • Prior to reaching 18, child received Social Security dependent derivative benefits from a parent or other relative who was disabled, retired, or deceased.

DAC benefits are not means-tested, so financial maintenance will not impact the disabled adult child’s eligibility for this benefit.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. SSI benefits for a disabled child who is 18 or older may be significantly impacted by receiving financial maintenance. Financial maintenance paid directly to the child or to the custodial parent for the benefit of the child is considered unearned income to the child. Unearned income can reduce the amount of SSI benefits or make the child entirely ineligible for SSI benefits and the associated Medicaid.

To avoid the partial or complete loss of SSI benefits, when requesting financial maintenance (or modification of financial maintenance) you may request that instead of the financial maintenance being paid directly to the child or the parent, that it be paid to either an ABLE account set up for the disabled adult child, or directly to a third-party vendor for services (car insurance, cell phone provider, school tuition, etc.).

ABLE accounts were recently introduced under federal law to allow disabled adults (who became disabled before age 26) to maintain eligibility for disability-related benefits (such as SSI) while having access to funds that may be used for disability-related expenses (including housing and transportation). See Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) Accounts: What You Need to Know for more information.​​