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Tips For Navigating a Divorce in NJ with a Special Needs Child

In today's post, we provide tips that guide parents through this difficult process while keeping their children's well-being as a priority throughout.

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If you’re a parent of a special needs child and are facing the prospect of divorce in New Jersey, you undoubtedly have many questions, worries, and concerns. You may be wondering what your legal rights and obligations will be under the law when it comes to custody agreements or modifications to existing arrangements

Moreover, you need to ensure that all your decisions put your child’s best interests first. Below we provide tips that guide parents through this difficult process while keeping their children’s well-being as a priority throughout.

What Makes a Divorce with a Special Needs Child Different?

A divorce of any kind is going to be a complex situation that requires considerations of finances, custody, and assets. But this complexity becomes even larger when you’re trying to find what’s best for a special needs child. The complex medical/therapeutic and educational needs of the child must be considered.

Unfortunately, sometimes the court itself may not fully comprehend the day-to-day needs of a child with special needs. For instance, the child support calculator only really looks at income and how many days the child spends with each parent. It doesn’t consider the therapies and medical costs involved in raising a special needs child. That’s why it’s so important to look for an attorney with experience in this field to help guide you from the beginning of your divorce proceedings.

4 Aspects of Divorce with a Special Needs Child to Be Considered

There are several aspects you must consider in these cases, including:

Financial and Estate Planning Considerations for Special Needs Children of Divorce

Divorces usually have some degree of negotiation where finances are concerned. In a divorce that includes a child with considerable challenges, finances are especially difficult to work out. 

Here are aspects of the divorce that should be worked through for your child to be cared for long after your dissolved union is finalized:

Guardianship for Your Special Needs Child Is Vitally Important

As a child’s parent, you’re the one to make decisions for that child until he or she is 18. But when they turn 18, you will need to petition the court to grant a guardianship to you for your special needs child to continue making those decisions. 

When divorcing, you will need to determine guardianship and support/maintenance payments for your child with special needs and their care. You’ll need the help of an experienced family attorney who can guide you toward getting the medical paperwork and other financial information.

Trusts, Child Support, Financial Maintenance Payments, and Government Benefits

Generally, the guardianship issues will need to be handled before you can proceed with other aspects of your divorce such as child support and the division of assets. According to New Jersey state law, child support will end if the child dies, marries, enlists in the military, or turns 19. 

However, the law further states that it can be extended if there is a court order, if the child continues in high school, if the child is enrolled in college or other program, or if the child has a mental or physical disability that requires continued support. These exceptions can only continue until the child is 23. 

At that point, steps will have to be taken to install financial maintenance for the child. Another further complication is that children (and adults) with special needs may qualify for Medicaid and SSI (Supplemental Security Income). 

However, if they’re receiving maintenance payments, those payments may be classified as an asset. This could then disqualify them from government assistance. That’s why an experienced attorney will need to handle these complex details.

Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody or child support for a special needs child, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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