When it comes to securing child support for your family’s circumstances, it isn’t just about what your family needs today. Child support agreements focus on the long-term health and wellbeing of the child and the financial security of the parents.
This is especially true for children with special needs and their families.
In New Jersey, child support laws provide guidelines on child support for a child or children with special needs, with the goal of ensuring they receive continuous care and support. Here’s what you and your co-parent need to know.
Child support for children with special needs in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, the process of determining child support considers both the child’s needs and each parent’s financial circumstances.
Child support payments are often based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines if the parent’s incomes are within the limitations and the children are under eighteen or over eighteen but living at home while attending college. These guidelines are in place to provide consistency in how much a parent pays or receives.
Factors that the Guidelines take into consideration generally include:
- Income and earnings of both parents
- Number and ages of children
- Child custody arrangements
- Special needs and other expenses, including health care, daycare, school, and more
In New Jersey, child support is automatically terminated at nineteen unless certain conditions are met. For example, it’s common for child support agreements to last through post-secondary education, in which case the child support would terminate before a child’s 23rd birthday.
The goal of these timelines is to provide support for a child until they become of a self-sufficient age or financially able to care for themselves. A child with special needs, though, may or may not become self-sufficient and may need indefinite support.
What constitutes special needs?
When the courts determine child support for children with special needs, they may consider a variety of factors, including but not limited to:
- The need for specialized therapy, such as physical, occupational, or speech therapy
- The need for special equipment, such as a wheelchair or automobile customizations
- Necessary household modifications, such as wheel-chair accessible bathrooms or lift installations
- Medications and insurance coverage
- Anticipated medical expenses
- Dietary needs
- School programs, tuition, or transportation costs to and from school
- Any costs regarding Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
By working together, parents can prioritize the child’s best interest and everyone benefits. This requires more than a collaborative mindset, though—it takes experience and an understanding of the law to create a child support plan for a child with special needs that will work in the long term.
Our attorneys have decades of combined child support experience. At Jacobs Berger, LLC, we help clients navigate the court system, understand child support calculations set by the State of New Jersey, and work through the challenges of negotiating with your co-parent.
Child support and government assistance programs for children with special needs
From medical care to education expenses to making your home accessible, the financial costs associated with special needs can be substantial. And if you or your co-parent cannot work because of your child’s care needs, that can make finances a source of stress.
Government benefits—like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)—play an essential role in supporting your family when you have a child with special needs. They offset costs, replace lost income, and help provide continuity of services—but they can also complicate child support.
Depending on how your child support payments are set up, these funds may interfere with your child’s eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. As a result, your child may lose out on benefits. Individuals generally have to demonstrate limited income to qualify, but continued child support payments may disqualify individuals with special needs from these resources, depending on the amount contributed.
To ensure that your loved ones continue to qualify for these programs into adulthood, an experienced child support attorney can help your family direct child support payments to a special needs trust. A special needs trust can help prevent disqualification from necessary government aid programs that may be jeopardized through traditional child support payments because the trust is not considered income for the child.
At Jacobs Berger, our Morristown child support attorneys collaborate with trust and estate planning professionals to ensure your child support needs are coordinated in tandem with all necessary documents. This provides the fullest possible protection for your child and continuity of care and support.
Child support for children with special needs
Understanding the scope of child support with special needs can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re already juggling medical, developmental, behavioral, or educational issues.
If you’re worried about how to create a plan that will allow you to provide the highest quality of life and care for your child while maintaining financial stability, we encourage you to seek support. Raising a child or children with special needs can require special considerations, but a strong network of personal and professional support can make a huge difference.
Build a plan for your child’s future with Jacobs Berger
Navigating child support and government resources for children with special needs can seem overwhelming. Determining the right path forward for your family can be a complicated process. An experienced child support attorney can de-stress the process and guide you through your options to make the right decision for your family’s circumstances.
The attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC, have extensive experience navigating the wide range of child support issues that parents experience in New Jersey.
We seek to protect your family’s financial stability and guide you through the child support process with the least amount of stress possible for everyone.
Schedule a strategic planning session with us today.