While it is important in the context of any divorce involving children for the parents to set aside
emotion and focus on the best interests of their child(ren), never is this more critical than for
parents raising a child with special needs.
Careful planning and detailed consideration is not only necessary to provide for the short
term financial issues connected with the parties divorce, such as the appropriate calculation of
child support without jeopardizing receipt of any government benefits such as Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”), Social Security Disability Income (“SSDI”), Medicare and
Medicaid, but also to address the long term issues arising in the context of the care and custody of
an individual who may very well require lifelong assistance.
In many instances, the
establishment of a Special Needs Trust is essential to protect a child’s support/assets
without disqualifying him or her from government benefits.
Parents of special needs children, such as those with Autism or other mental or physical
developmental disabilities, must plan for the future needs of their child(ren). Decisions will need
to be made regarding who will be responsible for making educational decisions for the child
including but not limited to working with Child Study Teams, physical, occupational and speech
therapists, creating an Individual Education Plan (“IEP”) and applying for benefits
through the Division of Developmental Disabilities (“DDD”).
As the child reaches
the age of 18, a determination regarding the appropriateness of a guardian may be required.
Adequate estate planning including a Will, Power of Attorney, or Advance Health Care Directive (or
Living Will) may be necessary to permit parents to continue to handle medical and financial
decisions on behalf of the child.
As in any divorce, advanced and informed planning with the benefit and assistance of compassionate
and experienced counsel will minimize disputes following divorce.
To learn more, contact
Kimberly A. Packman, Esquire, a knowledgeable New Jersey Special Needs Attorney or one of the other
qualified New Jersey divorce attorneys at the Haddonfield, New Jersey law firm of Adinolfi &
Lieberman, P.A. by calling (856) 428-8334 or by visiting our website at www.sjfamilylawyers.com.