Judge gavel and colourful letters regarding child custody, family law concept

Every child is unique and has his or her own personality, preferences,
and needs. Each divorce and child custody matter is decided on what is
in a child’s best interest. When a child in a custody dispute has
special needs,
that need to be taken into account when crafting a custody order.

Many special needs children have particular medical or dietary needs. Each
parent’s ability to best provide for the child’s needs will
be considered. If you have historically been the parent to drive the child
to all of his extra medical appointments and received the specialized
training from medical professionals to address the child’s special
medical needs, then this will be taken into account when crafting a custody
or visitation schedule. Similarly, if a child has particular dietary needs,
the parent who has historically taken care of these dietary needs, whether
that is in the form of food preparation, occupational therapy, or meal
planning, will want to provide proof of that to the court in a contested
custody hearing. However, this does not mean that one parent will receive
preference with respect to custody. Further inquiry will require an analysis
of each parent’s willingness and capability of caring for the child.

Special needs children often have higher than average medical needs, which
brings with it higher than average medical bills. Including apportionment
of medical costs in a child custody order is a standard practice, but
when the parents know that future medical expenses could be extraordinary,
it is vital to pay special attention to the division of such expenses
between the parties.

Another issue is ongoing education. Parents need to be prepared to work
closely together with the child’s school and each other to ensure
the child’s educational plan is being followed and tailored to the
child. Making provision for an ongoing plan of cooperation could be beneficial
to set the stage for future success in planning your child’s education.

Child support is another area that can end differently in a case with a
special needs child. New Jersey child support guidelines do not provide
a way to take the extraordinary expenses that can be associated with raising
a special needs child into account. If there will be expenses such as
medical equipment, special therapy, special schools, etc. in your child’s
future, it may be necessary to ask the court to deviate from the guidelines
to take these extra expenses into account in order to adequately provide
for the care of your child. Most importantly, parents need to consult
with an estate planner to plan for the time when they may wish to apply
for government benefits for the child. For instance, child support payable
to a parent is considered income to the child. Planning ahead and making
child support payable to a trust can protect the child’s eligibility
for government benefits.

Every custody case and every child has individual issues. We are experienced
in assisting our clients seek appropriate custody and child support orders
for their special needs children.
to talk about your child and what special issues should be addressed in
your divorce or custody case. Call us at (732) 479-4711

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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