Child Support for Severely Disabled Adult Daughter Contested in Nashville, Tennessee: Lillard v. Lillard

March 29, 2021 K.O. Herston 0 Comments

Facts: Mother and Father are the divorced parents of Daughter.

Daughter had difficulty in school and was placed in special education classes starting in second grade. Tests revealed she had an IQ of 68, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, memory deficits, difficulty processing information, and was unable to perform many daily living skills.

When Daughter was still a minor, Mother petitioned for Father to continue paying child support beyond 18 years of age because of Daughter’s severe disability.

Daughter continued with special education classes and graduated high school.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The parents agreed that Daughter was disabled and that Father would pay child support until Daughter turned 21. Father continued to deny that Daughter is “severely disabled” such that child support is appropriate after age 21.

Another court set up a conservatorship that gave Mother the right to pay Daughter’s bills, make purchases, enter contractual relationships, apply for benefits, and consent to medical care.

The evidence showed Daughter has difficulty with the concept of time and must be reminded to address her hygiene. While she can use a microwave, she does not clearly understand the time it takes to cook something. For example, Daughter does not understand what “90 minutes” means. Daughter is afraid to be left alone in the house at night, and Mother must adjust her work schedule to accommodate Daughter in that respect.

Daughter cannot distinguish between a quarter and a nickel and does not know how to count money. Daughter cannot drive. She cannot use public transportation because she’s afraid of strangers and does not look both ways before crossing the street.

Daughter was fired from several jobs for not performing basic tasks, such as counting money. She works part-time at Lowe’s watering plants in the garden area. Her supervisor testified that she would not recommend Daughter for a job with greater responsibility because of her deficits in attention, learning, and memory.

The trial court found Daughter to be severely disabled and entitled to child support beyond age 21.

Father appealed.

On Appeal: The Court affirmed the trial court.

Tennessee courts may continue child support beyond the child’s minority and until the child reaches 21 years old if the child is disabled as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To continue child support beyond age 21, Tennessee courts must find the child is “severely disabled,” living under the care and supervision of a parent, that it’s in the child’s best interest to remain under the care and supervision of the parent, and the other parent can financially continue paying child support.

Tennessee law does not define “severely disabled.” Our appellate courts say that determination requires an individualized assessment of how that person’s physical and mental impairments affect their ability to live independently. In making that determination, Tennessee courts must consider the child’s ability to perform essential tasks such as bathing, dressing, dental hygiene, meal preparation, and medical care. Tennessee courts must also consider the child’s ability to work, use transportation, and manage their financial affairs.

Father argued that Daughter graduated from high school on time, held a part-time job, and could perform basic household tasks, all of which showed she was not “severely disabled.”

The Court found ample evidence that Daughter cannot live independently:

[W]e have determined the preponderance of the evidence supports the trial court’s finding that Daughter cannot perform essential tasks, such as waking up in a timely manner, washing her hair, remembering to take medications, remembering to brush her teeth, transporting herself to and from work, and managing money. And, considering Daughter’s attention and memory deficits and her employment history, we agree with the trial court that her employment prospects are very limited. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s determination that Daughter has a severe disability.

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Here, it is undisputed Daughter lives under Mother’s care and supervision, and the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding that it is in Daughter’s best interest to remain in Mother’s care.

The trial court’s judgment that Daughter is entitled to child support beyond age 21 was affirmed.

Lillard v. Lillard (Tennessee Court of Appeals, Middle Section, March 8, 2021).

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Child Support for Severely Disabled Adult Daughter Contested in Nashville, Tennessee: Lillard v. Lillard was last modified: March 28th, 2021 by K.O. Herston

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