Divorce law & divorce lawyers tend to focus on typical marital situations: a husband, a wife, and one or more minor children. Existing systems may not be able to handle special situations such severely disabled children, and that is when clients need their family law attorneys to be creative and insightful. The tools in Divorce Financials family law software make it easier to find unique child support arrangements that provide for the needs of the atypical child.
The Special Financial Needs Of Special Needs Kids
Child support laws vary from state to state, but in general they say that parents must care for their children until such time as the children can take care of themselves. When a child has severe disabilities that prevent independent living, then the parent will have to provide care throughout their lives.
This must be considered when negotiating divorce settlements. You may be used to calculating child support that will end when the child is no longer a minor, and may not think about what happens if the child is unable to work or to live alone. It is better to come up with a settlement now that will provide for the child than to end up going back to court in a few years when the child is no longer a minor.
Start With The Basics
State child support laws typically say to use standard minor child support standards when working with adult children. You can start with the child support calculator in your divorce legal software to create a baseline level of support. However you aren’t done.
Adult disabled children may have additional costs such as medical care or specialized training. Parents are the best source of information on what kind of needs the child has. These should be included when calculating child support so you can be sure that all expenses are covered. The core philosophy of child support calculations — and you know this but it bears repeating — is that all decisions should be about the best interest of the child and not the parents.
Child Support vs. Disability Benefits
Disability benefits can affect child support in two ways. In the first, it is appropriate to reduce child support payments if some or all of the child’s financial needs are already being met with these disability payments. Child support obligations are usually reduced by the amount of benefit received on a dollar for dollar basis.
There is also a more serious situation: child support can jeopardize a child’s ability to qualify for these benefits. Some disability programs are income based and child support can make the child ineligible. In that case it would be wise to come up with an alternative, such as moving some of the child support into alimony payments (which would be the parent’s income and not the child’s) or paying the support into a special needs trust.
With Divorce Financials divorce settlement software you can create multiple child support scenarios to find the one that provides the child with the care needed without overburdening the payor, and without threatening the child’s benefit payments.
Find out more about the tools included in Divorce Financials and how they make it easier to create fair and tax-optimized settlements for your clients.