Child Support Considerations for Parents of Special Needs Children in New Jersey
Raising a child with special needs can be incredibly rewarding but nevertheless demands a lot of parents—including financially. Raising these children can become even more challenging after a split, when parents’ ability to calmly communicate about their child’s care may have all but vanished, and the costs of the divorce weigh heavily on the budgets of each spouse as they work to establish and maintain separate households.
When a child has special needs, the issue of child support comes with unique considerations. Below, learn about some of the issues that divorced New Jersey parents of special needs children should keep in mind when requesting or paying child support. If you have any additional questions, contact a seasoned New Jersey family law attorney for a consultation.
Child support could disturb federal benefits that the child receives
If your child has substantial disabilities, they may be the recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) offered through the federal government. The Social Security Administration classifies child support as “unearned income” and considers it the child’s own income. Not all child support will render a child ineligible for SSI benefits, but if it rises past a certain amount, it could.
Parents who depend on these benefits to provide for their child, or on the health care coverage provided through Medicaid to SSI recipients, may want to consider alternative arrangements for providing support that aren’t considered to be income for the child. Parents may also consider creating a special needs trust, which allows funds to be saved and spent on a child’s educational or personal care expenses without preventing them from collecting federal benefits.
Support can be extended past the child’s 23rd birthday, but you’ll need a special order
New Jersey laws on child support were updated in February of 2017 to state that child support will automatically end on a child’s 23rd birthday but can be extended by agreement of the parents. However, the parents still must request a court order that extends child support, or else the support obligation will terminate by default. Parents of a child with a permanent and severe disability who needs ongoing care in the home must be prepared for this deadline in advance to avoid any lapses in payment of support.