Can a Child Sue for Child Support?

A 2014 child support lawsuit in New Jersey raised the question of whether an adult child can sue his or her parents for child support. A New Jersey woman attempted to sue her parents after claiming they kicked her out of their home, forcing her to find alternative living arrangements. The truth was that she did not wish to abide by her parents’ rules for living in their home and left voluntarily. A New Jersey judge decreed the woman did not have the right to sue her parents for child support.

In California, the Family Code states that a parent’s fiduciary duty to provide child support lasts until the child’s death, legal emancipation, or marriage, or until the child reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full-time high school student. It’s possible for a child’s parent to receive support payments until the child is 19 if the child started school late or had to repeat a grade. The court will typically require the non-custodial parent to pay child support, and the legal penalties for missing payments can be severe. It’s possible for a non-custodial parent to lose visitation rights or other custodial privileges if he or she fails to make support payments on time, and unpaid child support may also lead to a civil claim later from the custodial parent.

Suing for Unpaid Child Support

Some divorce provisions may require a parent to pay child support until the child finishes his or her education. This does not mean an adult cannot sue his or her parents for support if he or she decides to attend college or does not wish to remain in the family home. However, an adult child may play an important role in securing unpaid child support payments from an insolvent parent. If a child reaches the age of majority and the custodial parent is struggling due to unpaid child support payments, the child can file a lawsuit on behalf of the custodial parent or testify on behalf of the custodial parent.

It’s vital to remember that a parent who pays child support pays it to the other parent, not the children. If an adult child decides to file a lawsuit against his or her parent for unpaid child support, any monies received through a settlement or case award would go to the other parent, not the child. The only exception would be in the event that the custodial parent died prior to the lawsuit. In this situation, the child would receive the unpaid support as an award to the deceased parent’s estate if the child is a personal representative of the deceased parent’s estate.

Provisions for Children with Disabilities

In a divorce proceeding involving a child or children with disabilities, the court may deem that their care will require support after reaching the age of majority. A custodial parent may continue to receive child support payments from the other parent for a specified period of time or until the child’s condition improves to a certain degree, if possible. Children with incapacitating disabilities may require extensive medical care and supervision well into adulthood, and the court will account for this when making a determination concerning support payments.

Many divorce cases evolve into complex legal battles, and cases involving seriously incapacitated children may take a long time to reach their conclusions. Parents should remember that the court has a duty to rule in the best interests of the child in any divorce case, and this may involve requiring child support payments after a child has reached the age of majority. Anyone with questions about divorce and child support should reach out to an experienced family law attorney.