In Pennsylvania, child support obligations typically cease when a child reaches the age of majority, 18. However, in certain circumstances, such as when the child has disabilities, the obligation can continue. In these cases, both the parent paying child support and the parent receiving it, need to consider whether child support payments might affect the child's eligibility for Medicaid.
A person with special needs will generally become eligible to receive their own Social Security Disability Income and Medicaid which can be critical assistance to individuals who are unable to work and provide their own income due to their disabilities. In cases where an individual who is eligible for these programs due to their disability and continues to reside with his or her married parents, his or her parents' income will not be considered and will not cause a reduction in the amount of SSDI he or she is eligible for or whether he or she remains eligible for Medicaid. The situation is much different when the disabled person is an adult child of divorced or separated parents. In this case, the amount he or she receives in SSDI assistance will be reduced by the amount of child support that is paid directly to the custodial parent. This is due to the fact that Social Security will consider that money to be income for the disabled adult. This income also could cause the disabled adult to become ineligible for Medicaid.
One way to protect the benefits a disabled adult of divorced parents can receive, is to establish a Special Needs Trust which can protect income for the child with disabilities. By establishing a Special Needs Trust, the child support payments can be assigned to the Special Needs Trust via an Order of Court or Property Settlement Agreement. This means that the parent paying child support will send payments to the trust instead of to the custodial parent. Once this occurs, child support is no longer considered unearned income to the disabled adult, which will allow him or her to receive the full amount of SSDI they are eligible, not render him or her ineligible for Medicaid, and still generate income for his or her support through continuing child support payments.
If you have a child with disabilities and are paying or receiving income, contact our office today to speak with one of our Pennsylvania Child Support Attorneys to discuss your options in establishing a Special Needs Trust to protect your child's potential benefits.