By Gerri Elder
Family courts across the country are packed with legitimate cases in which people are seeking child support payments from a parent. Usually during a divorce, one parent seeks child support from the other to support a minor child, or in some cases adult children may sue a parent for unpaid child support that was owed but never paid while they were growing up.
Child support is usually paid from one parent to the other in order to support children until the age of 18, but in some circumstances child support payments can continue until age 21. An 18-year-old woman from Long Island, New York was counting on a state law that makes children eligible to receive child support from their parents until age 21 in cases that involve the child being abused or kicked out of the home by the parent. According to a Newsday report, Maria Guevara moved out of her mother's house on her 18th birthday and then sued to collect child support.
Guevara voluntarily moved out of her mother Gina Ubillus's home in 2005 because she said that her mother was too strict to live with. She then sued her mother for child support saying that the reason she left home was to "escape an abusive, unloving and unsupportive environment." Her primary complaints about her mother were that she refused to give her money to go out to eat and buy fashionable clothing and that she set an early curfew.
Guevara's request for child support from her mother was denied by a Nassau County support magistrate, but she decided to take her case a step further and filed an appeal. She was shot down again by the New York Court of Appeals. The appeals court ruled that Ubillus had no obligation to support her daughter, who was legally an adult, because there was no evidence that Guevara was ever physically abused and had decided to move out of her mother's home voluntarily because she didn't like the rules there.
Under New York divorce law, children between the ages of 18 and 21 fall into a special category. While they are legally adults, they may still have child support eligibility. If the child can prove to the court that their parent or parents threw them out of the house or that they left because they were physically abused in the home, the law says that they are entitled to collect child support from their parents.
In Guevara's bid to collect child support from her mother, she could not prove that she was physically abused and admitted that she had left home on her own. The court could not award her child support payments from her mother simply because Guevara felt that her mother's rules were unreasonable. If teens could voluntarily move out and collect child support from their parents every time they didn't like the guidelines and curfews that their parents enforce in the home, the courts would be absolutely overwhelmed and crippled by the amount of requests.
Courts can not step in to settle family disputes in which there are no legal issues. In homes where parents attempt to establish healthy habits by insisting that their children abide by rules, there is no call for the involvement of the family court.