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Supporting Special Needs Children in Divorce

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Special Needs Children and Divorce in Morris County NJ

Special Needs Children and Divorce in Morris County NJIf a divorcing couple has a special needs child, there can be additional challenges in navigating the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. As it relates to matters of child support, physical custody, legal custody, visitation, medical care, physical therapy, education and dietary requirements, a parenting plan should spell out essential information and instructions. A good starting point is to explore how much you and your spouse agree on concerning issues related to your child’s challenges and abilities.

Your attorney should be aware of what your special needs child’s typical day or week is like in terms of any social or educational activities, as well as nutritional or medical care needs. These predictable and recurring expenses are a consistent part of the family’s life and should be added to the child support award. Because your child may need a heightened level of support for a lifetime, the time for that planning is now, while you are negotiating the terms of your divorce.

At Jacobs Berger, LLC, our family law attorneys have extensive experience working with family law clients to find constructive, fair and accurate solutions to their legal needs and financial concerns in towns across Morris County including Madison, Randolph, Hanover, Florham Park, Tewksbury, and Morristown. Practicing exclusively family law, our attorneys are intimately familiar with the modification process, and how to successfully petition the courts in order to protect you from unfair and oppressive divorce agreements. Our firm is ready to provide you with the knowledgeable, effective and creative legal counsel that you need and deserve in such important matters. We will work to ensure that any agreement you reach is both fair and reasonable, and properly takes into account you and your children’s unique needs and concerns. The primary focus should always be on the child, and the assembly of an agreement surrounding the child’s need(s) should be rooted in a mutual desire to prevent conflict between you and your future co-parent.

Contact our firm today to review your options and assemble an agreement for your special needs child, your options moving forward, and how to best create a plan that meets both the immediate and future needs of your children in a strategic planning session. Call today at 971-718-7705.

Termination of Support Obligation: Morristown Attorneys Review NJ Child Support Law

It is  possible that if you have a special needs child, he or she may not move beyond a parent’s “sphere of influence.” Therefore, child support for a special needs child may continue for a very long time. A parent may be required to support a special needs child even though they have reached adulthood. If the special needs child is incapable of maintaining themselves due to their illness or disorder then judges may be hesitant to declare the child emancipated.

Family Court vs. Probate Court: After Child’s 19th Birthday

These emancipation and child support obligation changes in New Jersey  or “Termination of Obligation to Pay Child Support” (N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.67), means the automatic termination of child support at age 19 (without either parent asking the court to do so) unless otherwise provided in a court order or a judgment. This means parents of adult special needs children who have prior court orders mandating continued child support after age nineteen, must submit a written request for the continuation of the child support obligation before the nineteenth birthday of the child in question, or, if the child’s nineteenth birthday has already passed, the custodial parent must petition the Probate Court, instead of the Family Court, for continued financial support of the adult special needs child, even though the support obligation is already provided for in the court order.

Maximizing Parenting Arrangements for Special Needs Children

It is possible that the custodial parent may not be the primary wage earner in the family, or may not have enough resources. Current legislation and the proposed new court rule will likely disproportionately impact these families. The custodial parent must now navigate a new set of legal rules and will no longer have the enforcement mechanism of the Probation Department.

Special Needs Trust

Parents of a special needs child that may want to maximize the child’s access to governmental benefits should investigate the use of a special needs trust for depositing any child support or financial maintenance payments; which prevents disqualification for Social Security Insurance (SSI) because child support belongs to the child and will in most cases disqualify the child for government benefits, such as Medicaid, in the state of New Jersey.

The purpose of a special needs trust is to enable a child with special needs to use his or her assets as well as any existing governmental benefits or assistance for which the child is eligible or that the child is receiving. In order to qualify as a special needs trust in New Jersey, the trust must be established by a parent or legal guardian of the child, or the court. The child must be under the age of 65 and disabled. The trust must also be irrevocable, funded with child´s assets (which may include child support payments), and conform to other legal requirements.

Creating a special needs trust for lifetime gifts or inheritances, such as life insurance and pension proceeds, will help prevent an unnecessary disqualification that preserves a child’s ability to remain eligible for SSI income. If drafted correctly, under both federal and New Jersey law, the contents of the special needs trust cannot be viewed as assets when the government makes an SSI eligibility determination.

Contact Our Randolph Special Needs Child Support Lawyers Today

The Family Law and Divorce Attorneys of Jacobs Berger have extensive experience helping parents across Denville, Randolph, Hanover, Madison, Morris County, and throughout New Jersey to successfully reach fair and constructive child support agreements of all kinds.

Not only do we offer this unique approach of helping our clients to build successful foundations for their legal and parental futures, we also regularly work with mental health professionals and financial planners so that any and all of our clients’ needs during the-often-difficult divorce process can be met, and addressed. The key initiative we diligently pursue across every family law file we open, is to remain focused on the custom life-plan we build with our clients. Although these plans are custom in nature, almost every plan we build has two common goals: to create a much more stable financial future, and deliver the best opportunity for our clients’ to grow into a new and healthy home-life so that they can provide the same to their children.

Whether you are in the process of creating a child support agreement or are in need of legal assistance during a child support modification proceeding, our attorneys are ready to begin working with you today. Contact our firm to schedule a confidential consultation with our family law team by contacting us online, or calling our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 710-4366.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.