Child Support Ordered After Age 18 for Severely Disabled Tenn. Son
Tennessee child support law case law summary on child support for an adult child from the Court of Appeals.
Beverly Lynn Durham (Hess) Cook v. James Preston Hess, III – Tennessee Child Support
The husband and wife were divorced in 1991. The 1991 marital termination agreement and decree called upon the husband to pay child support in the amount of $850 per month. It further provided that, because of the child’s severe handicap, spina bifida, that amount would not be reduced or pro-rated, and that it would continue until the child attained emancipation as determined by the court. The amount was modified somewhat over the years. The parties’ son was born in 1989 and turned 18 years old in 2007, and graduated from high school the same year, after the school waived the algebra requirement. At the conclusion of the child’s senior year of high school, the husband stopped paying child support, and the mother moved to find him in contempt. She also requested an indefinite extension of the support obligation. The husband filed a counter-petition asking that the son be found to be emancipated.
The trial court found that the son was severely disabled, and ordered the husband to continue paying child support in the amount of $926 per month. The husband appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. On appeal, he argued that the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. He also argued that the trial court erred in finding the son to be severely disabled and miscalculated the amount of child support.
The Court of Appeals first concluded that the trial court had jurisdiction. Since the original decree specified that the support obligation would continue, the trial court retained jurisdiction, even though the child had turned 18, and even though the motion was filed after the child turned 18.
The Court next considered the issue of whether the son was severely disabled, and agreed with the trial court that he was. Even though he had graduated from high school, he was near the bottom of his class, and graduated only after the school waived the algebra requirement. He was employed, but showed poor money management skills, such as lending his debit card to other persons. He had obtained a driver’s license, but his mother revoked driving privileges after an accident. He was confined to a wheelchair, and the Court detailed medical issues such as the need for a catheter. The Court of Appeals also noted that he did not have the maturity consistent with his age.
The Court noted that he was a likable, positive person and could communicate effectively. However, the Court also agreed that he was not able to make mature decisions or rational decisions concerning his health and that he was unable to live independently.
Based upon these factors, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the son was severely disabled.
The husband argued that the son’s earnings should be taken into consideration in computing the child support obligation. The Court of Appeals concluded that this was not necessary, but also found that the trial court had done so, since it took into consideration the fact that the son’s medical insurance was covered through his employment.
For these reasons, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
M2012-01554-COA-R3-CV (Tenn.Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2013).
See original opinion for exact language. Legal citations omitted.
For more information, see Tennessee Child Support Answers to FAQ’s. For legal updates, news, analysis, and commentary, visit our Tennessee Family Law Blog and its Child Support category. A Memphis child support attorney from the Miles Mason Family Law Group can help you with Tennessee child support issues including setting or modifying child support. To schedule your confidential consultation about Tennessee child support, call us today at (901) 683-1850.