Wisconsin child support for adult children

Wisconsin law does not require parents to pay child support after a child graduates high school. This is true even if the child is disabled, in college, or otherwise cannot care for himself. Once a child graduates high school, he is legally on is own. The family court has no authority to require parents to support him. Even if parents agree to do so, it is not particularly easy to draft legally enforceable child support agreements for adult children.

Separated parents can, if they wish, agree to support children after they reach majority. This is usually through agreements requiring separated parents to contribute to college expenses. This is certainly a laudable goal. However, it is difficult to plan for such considerable expenses far in the future. For example, if a parent’s income decreases, he/she will likely still be liable to pay a child’s college expenses, if the divorce or other separation agreement so states.

Agreements to support an adult child, even through college, must be very carefully drafted and specified. Otherwise, though rare, parents can actually be sued to pay their share of college cost. This recently happened in New Jersey.


Although no states, to my knowledge, require parents to pay for children’s college, some require parents to pay for disabled adult children. Wisconsin does not, which certainly can create problems. For example, without child support, a disabled child must rely on state aid.

Another issue can arise if only one parent is willing to continue to support the child. Without an obligation on both parents, one parent can unilaterally evade any responsibility for a disabled adult child. The responsibility then falls on the other parent or the state (and taxpayers).

I have often wondered if a revision to child support would be beneficial to at least provide the possibility that parents share responsibility for assisting disabled adult children. On one hand, such a law could obligate parents to support a child for her entire life. On the other hand, parents would be more closely invested in disabled children’s care, and the state’s responsibility for care would be reduced.

I would be happy to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this matter.

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About the Author: David Kowalski


  1. I thank you for putting this information out there for people to view. I do feel like this is something that needs to change, and I am disappointed in the State of Wisconsin for not supporting the parent who has placement of the disabled adult.
    I know that my ex husband is counting down the days/years that he no longer has to provide financially for our daughter, but does not take into consideration that she will be living with me for the remainder of my life, and that means providing monitaraly. I know she will be eligible for Social security, but I would say that’s not truly enough, and it gets the absent parent out of an obligation to there child.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I believe there are other states that permit support for adult children in certain circumstances. I agree it is an issue that should be addressed. It seems that such a rule would be a benefit for all involved, including the State. Thank you again for reading the post.

  2. Yes, this certainly is a problem. Child support ends for my disabled son this September. He will be living with me indefinitely. The child support order comes from the Wisconsin courts as this is where we lived at the time(ex-husband still lives in WI) Does it make any difference that me and my son reside in Illinois?

    1. You may wish to consult an Illinois attorney to determine if the support rules are different there. Wisconsin does not have an option to provide support for an adult child.

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