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Attorney Sophie Jacobi-Parisi Explains What Parents Need to Know about the Changes to New York’s Law for Child Support Payments for Special Needs Children

Authority Magazine
Sophie Jacobi-Parisi

Back in October 2021, New York decided to play catch-up by becoming the 41st state to pass a law that extends child support until the age of 26 for kids who are the product of a divorce and have been diagnosed as having developmental special needs. The news offered some comfort to custodial parents who often struggle with the never-ending and exorbitant costs that tending to a child with special needs entails such as paying for tuition at specialized schools, hiring specifically trained caretakers, attending regular physical therapy appointments, following a specific diet, and getting wheelchairs and/or other equipment children may require to help them get around.

For parents who have settled their divorce but have a son/daughter with special needs under the new emancipated age, Sophie Jacobi-Parisi, a Partner at the law firm Blank Rome in New York is here to guide you on how to qualify for these new and additional payments. Sophie is a highly trained attorney in all areas of matrimonial/family law including complex custody cases, separation/settlement agreements plus litigation and trial experience in New York’s Family and Supreme Courts. In addition to Sophie’s skill-set in assisting people with dissolving their marriages, Sophie also has a passion for helping children. Prior to joining Blank Rome, Sophie was a highly recognized attorney with the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice, where she represented children in legal proceedings in the Bronx Family Court.

Ilyssa Panitz: In October of 2021, a new statute was passed in New York to help divorced parents who have a child with special needs. How is this law helping people?

Sophie Jacobi-Parisi: Up until this law was passed, all child support for children in New York terminated when the child turned 21-years-old. The law did not take into account whether a child would be able to support him or herself by the age of 21, which is a serious concern for parents and guardians of children with certain special needs. The new law was constructed to allow the parent or guardian of a child who qualifies as “developmentally disabled” (as defined by the Mental Hygiene Law Section 1.03, subdivision 22) to receive child support between the ages of 21 to 26, a benefit that can be of significant help to the parent/guardian and the child. New York is the 41st state to pass such a law, so legal concept of financially supporting children into their adult years is available in other states beyond New York.

Ilyssa Panitz: Is this law retroactive and if so, what does that mean for both sides?

Sophie Jacobi-Parisi: Yes, this law is retroactive in that it affects those families who have child support agreements or orders, but their developmentally disabled child is under the age of 26-years-old. This means that if you are currently receiving or paying child support for a developmentally disabled child in New York pursuant to an order or agreement, the definition of emancipation in your agreement may no longer be valid. The statute does not allow a parent to seek child support for past years — only support going forward from the filing date.

Ilyssa Panitz: How does a parent submit a motion to the court to try and extend child support to the age of 26 for their son/daughter? What are the steps?

Sophie Jacobi-Parisi: It is important to note that this law is not written to extend current child support agreements or orders. It is intended to have a Court review child support “de novo” (Latin for “anew”) at the time a parent submits an application for child support for a “developmentally disabled” child who is between the ages of 21 and 26 years old. The process is the same as filing an initial child support proceeding, which can be done in Family Court or in Supreme Court and the application will include a detailed petition and current financial information about the parents and the needs of the child.

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"Attorney Sophie Jacobi-Parisi Explains What Parents Need to Know about the Changes to New York’s Law for Child Support Payments for Special Needs Children," by Ilyssa Panitz was published in Authority Magazine on November 1, 2022.