Disabled Children, Custody, and Child Support

Every child and family is unique and has specialized needs. During a divorce or custody dispute, it is up to the parents and the judge to do their best to create a visitation and custody order that will best suit the needs of the children. This presents special issues with each case, as each child is different. These issues about unique and individualized needs can really come to the forefront when a child is disabled and has special needs.

When crafting a visitation schedule for the child, parents need to be sensitive to the needs of disabled children in terms of consistency. For some children, a schedule that provides overnight visits during the school week may be totally appropriate. However, for some disabled children, a more set and consistent schedule may be a better fit. Some special needs children will thrive better with a schedule that keeps them at one house during the school week. With this in mind, parents may want to consider a schedule that provides larger blocks of visitation for the non-custodial parent during the summer. With respect to the visitation schedules, parents also need to take into account any extra medical or therapy appointments that are required now and in the future. A certain amount of flexibility for appointments with respect to visitation times could be advisable.

Having a child who is disabled can also possible impact child support. Social Security may provide payments to a disabled child in the form of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. If the household where the child lives meets certain parameters, including certain income requirements, the child may be eligible to receive SSI payments. Receipt of SSI is a means-tested program, such as WIC or food stamps, and is meant to assist needy families. Accordingly, like WIC or food stamps, SSI payments are not counted as income for child support purposes when the benefit is paid directly to the custodial parent. New Jersey law also provides for child support to be paid for the benefit of a disabled child even after the child is emancipated. A custodial parent may file to request that child support continues after the child turns the age of majority, and must prove that the disability existed before the child turned 19 and the disability is such that continued child support is required.

If you have a child who has special needs and you are considering divorce, you need an experienced attorney to help you identify the specific issues that may arise. We have helped many clients with these sorts of cases. Call us today at (732) 529-6937 to talk about your child and their special needs.
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