Considerations in a Divorce with a Special Needs Child

Family Law Attorneys Assisting Individuals in Monmouth County

If you are planning to dissolve a marriage, and you have a special needs child, you may be feeling anxious not only about finances and the future, but also your child's long-term needs. A special needs child's interests can substantially change your financial situation, as well as affecting issues of custody and support. At Goldstein Law Group, our Monmouth County divorce lawyers compassionately assist individuals in these challenging circumstances. We are keenly aware of the significance of a special needs child's interests during a divorce, and as attorneys who handle both divorce and estate planning, we can help you protect those interests.

Considering the Interests of a Special Needs Child During a Divorce

Special needs children often require more caretaking than other children, or they may need support for the remainder of their lifetimes. A primary caretaker may not be able to work and earn an income because he or she is taking care of the child. While most child support ends when a child turns 18 or graduates from college, a special needs child may remain dependent for much longer, or permanently. Moreover, child support made directly to a parent can interfere with a child's eligibility for Social Security benefits. This may mean that it is prudent to create a Special Needs Trust and obtain life insurance to pay for all expenses outside basic needs, such as caretakers or extraordinary medical expenses. The New Jersey child support guidelines do not necessarily account for these facts.

Special needs children may also need medical equipment that parents can only afford to keep in one home or cannot afford to move back and forth between homes. Moreover, they may not do well with switching between homes and caretakers, which means that joint custody may be desired, but simply not possible. Often, special needs children rely on consistency in daily life.

When a special needs child is going to travel between homes, it will be necessary to consider how the child travels, who will accompany the child, and what needs to be moved with him or her. If only one parent has been the main caretaker for the child's life, the other parent may not understand what is involved in daily care. If the other parent is uncomfortable with not getting as much parenting time, it is important to be represented by an attorney who can adequately convey to the court why a sole custody arrangement is preferable.

In general, New Jersey courts assume that children benefit from equal involvement by both parents. This is true for special needs kids too, but their needs may have to take precedence over the parents' interests. In all cases, the court must consider the best interests of the child, including his or her special needs. The court will have to consider whether a non-custodial parent should have legal custody, and if so what that will entail in terms of medications, lifestyle, and welfare, as well as the choice of caretaker.

When there are multiple children involved, only one of whom is special needs, they may need a different plan than the special needs child. The relationship between the special needs child and his or her siblings may factor into child custody determinations.

Seek Guidance from a Monmouth County Lawyer during a Divorce

During a divorce, your estate plan should be updated and may need to account differently for your special needs child than for your other children. The Monmouth County divorce attorneys at Goldstein Law Group can help people who are dissolving a marriage with all of the complex issues that may arise regarding their kids. Contact our family law attorneys at 732-967-6777 or set up an appointment through our online form. We also represent individuals in Rumson, Red Bank, and Old Bridge, as well as communities across Middlesex County.

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