When you have a special needs child, you love them with all your heart and understand that your care of them will last long after they turn age 18. But once a child reaches age 18 in California, even a special needs child has reached the age of majority and is considered an adult for legal purposes. What does that mean if the child’s parents divorced while the child was a minor?
Impact of majority
The impact of majority can be distressing to parents of a child with special needs. The parent may lose the ability to manage their child’s finances, health records and medical decisions. At this point it may be necessary to consider a conservatorship over the child.
Conservatorships over adults with special needs
A conservatorship in California is a legal process in which a person (the “conservator”) is granted to be responsible for an adult with special needs who needs help with daily activities (the “conservatee). The conservator must make sure the conservatee has appropriate food, housing and clothing. A conservator can only be appointed if the conservatee cannot appropriately take care of their person, health care needs, food, clothing and housing.
Note that guardianship, which may have already been in place, only applies to those under age 18. This arrangement is “limited.” The disabled adult still has the ability to care for their health and finances.
Limited conservatorship may be an option in some situations. Limited conservatorships both let the conservatee be self-reliant while still providing them with the help they need. Limited conservatorship may be an option for developmentally disabled adults that are able to care for themselves and manage their finances. Limited conservatorship aims to allow the conservatee to be as independent as possible. Ultimately, divorced parents of an adult special needs child may need to go to court to determine what type of conservatorship their child needs and who should provide it.