The Case Information Statement, NJ Divorce and the Special Needs Child

In October 2008 the University at Buffalo released a report suggesting that marriages with children with ADHD were nearly twice as likely to end in divorce by the child’s eighth birthday as those without children with ADHD.New Jersey divorce law allows special considerations for child support, including the disability of a child, and attorneys need to be prepared to gauge the needs of the child beyond the numbers reported on the Case Information Statement.

Typical Child Support Doesn’t Serve the Non-Typical Child

New Jersey law publishes standard child support tables that are useful in many or even most divorces. These tables take into account the income of the parents and the standard expenses most children incur. Unfortunately children with disabilities, especially disabilities that involve significant medical expenses, are not served well by these tables.

These child support amounts are not carved in stone. They are meant as a guide or starting point in child support calculations. The law specifically allows a couple to agree to a different amount if both parties are willing, and to continue the support even after the child turns 18. Unfortunately sometimes the paying parent doesn’t have the child’s best interest at heart. The attorney for the custodial parent will need to back unusual support requests with hard facts.

How to Calculate Fair Child Support

The attorney must be prepared to defend a higher support amount by documenting the child’s expenses to the court. Predictable, recurring expenses for therapies, medications, schooling and special diets are comparatively easy to calculate and include in NJ family law software. Unfortunately other expenses such as durable medical equipment may be more difficult to predict.

The other issue is the concept of emancipation. Many children with disabilities are unable to be independent at the age of majority and child support may continue throughout the child’s life. Custodial parents may need to prove to a judge the child is incapable of working and living independently to continue child support beyond the typical age of emancipation.

The Importance of A Special Needs Trust

Children with disabilities frequently get public assistance from programs such as Medicaid and SSI. A typical divorce attorney isn’t thinking about Social Security when planning child support with Case Information Statement software, but child support is considered the child’s income and can reduce or eliminate benefits vital to the child’s well being.

To avoid jeopardizing these benefits, the child support agreement should include the creation of a special needs trust. The child support is paid to the trust rather than the child, thus will not be counted as part of the child’s assets. Special needs trusts are too complex to go into here. A divorce attorney should consult an attorney who understands special needs trusts to ensure the settlement is written correctly.

Legal practice management software is an essential tool to the modern law practice, but software doesn’t take the place of legal education and experience. Blindly accepting a number spit out by a computer without considering the implications is unfair to the child involved. Easy Soft software is smart, but be sure to use your own brain as well.