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Colorado Divorce - How Does Child Support Differ for Disabled Children?

Colorado law requires that parents pay child support until their child is legally emancipated, i.e., the earliest of when the child turns 19, graduates from high school, joins the military, gets married, dies, or otherwise becomes self-sufficient.

Typically, a child support order entered after July 1, 1997 remains in force until the last child reaches the age of 19, unless the court orders otherwise. However, the child support order does not immediately terminate when the child turns 19, if there are younger children still receiving a benefit from the order.

If the child is in high school when he or she turns 19, the child support obligation extends until a month after graduation. However, the child support obligation does not extend beyond the child’s 21st birthday, even if the child is still attending high school at that age.

There are various factors that may either increase or decrease the time period for child support, and modification of child support orders may be warranted where there is a significant change in circumstances. One common exception to the general rule is where a child suffers from a physical or mental disability. Notably, most states require parents to provide for their adult disabled children.

If a child suffers from a disability and is not able to support him or herself as a result, then the age of emancipation for the disabled child exists without determination. As such, a child support order can remain intact after the child turns 19, and will continue so long as support is still needed or until the disability ends. Child support for the disabled child may include payments for medical expenses and/or insurance coverage.

The term “disability” is not specifically defined under Colorado law. However, parents often obtain Social Security benefits for the disabled child through adulthood, so most courts consider the Social Security Administration’s designation of “disabled” as sufficient proof of disability.

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