In determining child support, New Jersey courts generally follow the NJ Child Support Guidelines to determine how much money it will take to raise a child depending on that child’s age and the parents’ income. The cost is then divided proportionally based on income unless certain special circumstances apply, one of which is having a child with special needs.
Parents of special needs children typically must plan for their child’s financial future for his or her entire life — a daunting task by itself and made doubly so when there is a divorce. There are a number of special circumstances that come into play, including:
- Whether or not the custodial parent will be able to work and earn a sufficient income for themselves and the child.
- How marital property division is likely to be affected to support the child.
- When child support ends, which it must by age 23 at the latest in New Jersey, how continuing support will be structured so that it doesn’t affect important government benefits. (A person with special needs or other disabilities cannot have more than $2,000 in assets in order to meet eligibility requirements for Medicaid and Social Security Supplemental Income programs. It is imperative that the child not have any assets titled in his or her name – meaning they should not be listed as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts or plans, in trusts, wills or pensions.)
- How ongoing legal expenses for guardianship proceedings after the child reaches adulthood will be handled.
- How the child’s healthcare needs will be met during his or her lifetime.
In addition, there are other considerations when it comes to custody and visitation:
- Does the child have a caretaker other than a parent? If so, will that person travel between homes with the child?
- Will the child be able to comfortably visit the non-custodial parent’s home or will there be hindrances like special medical equipment that makes it difficult to do so?
- Special needs children do better with consistency in their daily routine. Will they be able to adjust to two separate households? And will the non-custodial parent be able to maintain the same routine at his or her home?
- Will the child eventually need to be moved to a specialized residence facility?
Your divorce attorney will need to know all the details of your special needs child’s daily routine and ongoing needs for support and care for his or her lifetime in order to help you devise a plan during divorce negotiations.
When you are faced with an important life decision regarding a key family relationship, the advice and assistance of an experienced family law attorney often prove crucial to your understanding of the issues involved and your satisfaction with the ultimate outcome of your family law matter. Contact us today for your free consultation.