Divorced or separated parents with children also have to work out child custody/visitation and child support matters. If your child has special needs, you may have a lot of questions about additional support, support extensions, and more. Below, we will discuss the basics concerning child support and differently-abled children.
Will a Court Order Additional Child Support for a Child with Special Needs?
Basic child support orders are meant to help parents cover the costs of food, clothing, housing, and other basic needs. Using Statewide Uniform Guidelines for Child Support, the court will calculate a child support award (using a formula). However, the court can increase the child support amount if the amount recommended by the guidelines fails to account for a child’s additional needs.
Your attorney can help you calculate the long-term costs of raising your child and help you fight for an equitable distribution of those costs. Special needs children may need additional child support to cover costs associated with;
- In-home care
- Medical care, including medication, treatments, physical therapy, etc.
- Medical equipment
- Modifications to the car
- Occupational or speech therapy
- Physical accommodations (i.e. modifications to the home, special beds, etc.)
- Social and behavioral therapy
- Special dietary needs or nutritional supplements
- Special educational needs
How Long Do You Have to Pay Child Support for Special Needs Children?
In California, child support typically ends when a child turns 18 years old (or 19 years old if they are still in high school). Parents of children with special needs must continue to support their child if they are dependent on their parents because of a disability or incapacitation that prevents them from earning a living (see California Family Code § 3910). It is important to note that court-ordered child support will not automatically be extended, though.
Either parent must complete and file a Request for Order to Extend Child Support for an Adult Disabled Child. The filing party will also need to attach Income and Expenses forms as well as other financial documents similar to those you file when you file an initial child support request. You should consult with an attorney as they can help you complete the filing correctly and efficiently.
Does Continued Child Support Affect the Child’s SSI Benefits?
Social security income (SSI) benefits assist disabled or blind individuals with limited income. A third of child support payments are excluded from the final SSI benefit payment calculations, and the remaining two-thirds are considered countable income. Thus, the two-thirds can be used to decrease the total amount of SSI a person receives.
Special Needs Trust & Child Support
A Special Needs Trust (SNT) is a specialized trust that allows a special needs beneficiary to benefit from the assets or funds in the trust. Having funds, including child support, in the trust can protect the child’s eligibility for public assistance, such as SSI or Medicaid. There are two main types of SNTs, first-party and third-party special needs trusts.
The key difference between the two is the way that they are funded. While first-party trusts are funded with assets belonging to the trust beneficiary, third-party trusts are funded by people other than the beneficiary and assets that are owned by other parties.
You should consult with an attorney to determine whether setting up a trust is best for you. While trusts can be beneficial in maintaining government benefits and managing assets, there can also be downsides, such as a lack of control over the trust.
Contact Our Skilled Attorneys
At The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc, our attorneys are dedicated to helping parents with special needs children understand their legal rights and options concerning child support. With over two decades of collective experience, our team is equipped to help protect our client’s best interests as well as the best interest of their children. If you are getting divorced and have a child with special needs, you can trust our team to help you smoothly navigate your case.
Learn more about how we can help you by calling (949) 577-7935 or reaching out online today.