disabled children, chronic illness, alimony, child support, caregivers
Many thousands of children experience serious disabling conditions such as autism and debilitating chronic illnesses such as asthma. Caring for these children is often so demanding that caregiving parents cannot remain employed outside the home. Parental resources available to these children are also limited because an unusually high percentage of them live with only one parent. Nonetheless, surprisingly few cases involving families with a disabled or chronically ill child appear in the family law case law or scholarly literature. Even where child support and alimony are concerned, these families are seen only at the margins.
In my recent article, I propose addressing some of the resource problems of families with disabled and chronically ill children through the creation of a new inter-parental financial remedy which I call chalimony. The remedy would highlight the interdependent reality of disabled and chronically ill children with the caregivers whose market activity is limited because of their unusual caregiving responsibilities. Caregivers would be entitled to the remedy if three conditions are met. First, meeting the child’s reasonable caregiving needs would have to be incompatible with full market participation by the caregiving parent. Second, the child’s other parent would not be meeting enough of the child’s caregiving needs to permit the primary caregiving parent to engage fully in the market. And, third, the economic resources of the paying parent would have to sufficient to provide chalimony in addition to child support and alimony.
In the article, I distinguish chalimony from child support and alimony on both theoretical and practical grounds. Then I justify chalimony on the grounds of economic fairness to the payor parent, gender fairness to the caregiving parent, and the value of chalimony to the child, especially in terms of the child’s access to additional parental time and economic resources.
34 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 253 (2010)