Mother and Father were married in 1993 and divorced in 2008. They had two
sons during their relationship, Older Son (OS) born in 1991, and Younger
Son (YS) born in 1995. They divorced in 2008. The trial court judge ordered
Father to pay child support for both sons to Terri in the amount of $810
for OS and $1,404 for YS child support… “until further order
of the court or until the child marries, dies, is emancipated, reaches
[age] nineteen (19), or reaches [age] eighteen (18) and is no longer a
full-time high school student, whichever occurs first.” When OS
“aged out” for child support, Father’s support order
decreased to $1,404 per month for YS’s support only.
In 2014, YS turned 19 years of age; however, he was not able to take care
of himself. YS had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD), an unspecified psychotic disorder, cannabis abuse, and
oppositional defiant disorder. He was also living in a treatment facility
in Texas for his illnesses. He also had not been living with Mother for
the previous five years, even though she had primary physical custody
while he was a minor.
In November of 2013, The Orange County Department of Child Support Services
(DCSS) filed a motion to extend YS’s $1,404 child support beyond
his adulthood date due to his mental incapacity. Father told the court
that he did not object to continuing to pay child support; however, he
did not think he should have to pay it to Mother, but that the money should
go directly to YS. He believed Mother would use the money for her personal benefit.
The trial court ordered that Father continue to pay child support for YS
to Mother, and Father appealed.
Section 3910(a) provides: “The father and mother have an equal responsibility
to maintain, to the extent of their ability, a child of whatever age who
is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means."
The appellate court determined that the trial court erred by ordering Father
to make the adult child support payments to Mother. According to the appellate
court, “A parent’s obligation to support an incapacitated
adult child runs to the child, not the other parent. [YS] is a fully emancipated
adult. He does not live with [Mother], and she is not [YS’s] conservator,
guardian, or legal representative.” Therefore, Father does not have
to pay Mother child support for YS. However, the appellate court sent
the case back to the trial court to determine to whom Father should send
his child support payments, suggesting that the money be sent to an account
set up at the Texas facility where YS is housed.