Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

How Do New Jersey Divorce Laws Affect My Case If My Child Has Special Needs?

Going through a divorce is a stressful and overwhelming experience that all couples hope to avoid. Yet, if it comes time for a split between you and your spouse and you have a special needs child, the divorce process can be extra nerve-racking. At the Law Offices of Edward R. Weinstein, we help alleviate pressure on our clients with special needs children by thoroughly explaining the added challenges and how to overcome them. 

Determining if my child has special needs

The first and hardest step is to determine if your child is a special needs child who requires extra attention and support, especially during the divorce process. A major thing to watch is your child’s vision behavior. If you notice that your child has difficulty following people or objects with his or her eyes or has trouble maintaining eye contact, it could be a sign that he or she requires extra attention. Additionally, if your child is frequently holding his or her head in a tilted, awkward position when interacting, it could be another sign that he or she has special needs.

Two other major areas to be aware of are your child’s communication skills and thinking skills. If you see that your child is aging, yet speaking very few words or very babyish words, it could be indicative of a special need. Furthermore, if you detect that as your child ages he or she cannot identify simple items or cannot recite the alphabet, it could mean that he or she has special needs. The most important behavior to monitor is your child’s movement. If he or she continues to crawl beyond the age of two or has trouble playing games like ball, it could be a sign that he or she has special needs.

Determining a parenting plan and visitation schedule

It is very possible that the usual visitation schedule that is recommended for most divorces will not be suitable if you have a child with special needs because he or she will need extra care and attention. Special needs children typically need more structure in their lives so to make them go back and forth between two homes could be overwhelming for them. Additionally, special needs children usually follow daily routines so to require a child to see his or her non-custodial parent every Wednesday night could disrupt what feels most comfortable to them. Furthermore, it is imperative that if you are planning to travel with your special needs child that you determine how he or she will travel best. Since the best interest of the child is of the utmost importance, it is crucial that a special needs child would feel exactly the same on vacation as he or she does in his or her own home.

Once a visitation schedule is finalized, it is important to create a parenting plan with your ex-spouse for when your child goes to visit him or her. The parenting plan should detail how to manage your child’s behavior, any medicine he or she regularly takes, how to make sure he or she is eating properly, and how to help ease the adjustment to a new home. Moreover, the parenting plan should help the other parent with understanding certain needs and preferences of the special needs child, especially if he or she still is experiencing trouble communicating. 

Determining the amount of child support to be paid

In divorce cases where the child has special needs, it is common that child support payments will be higher. Caring for a child with special needs not only requires extra attention and devotion, but also extra money. Deviations from the standard child support calculation guidelines are common to account for added costs associated with properly raising a special needs child. Often, child support payments will include money for therapy, medical equipment, nutritional supplements, dietary restrictions, and general medication. 

Determining the amount of alimony to be paid

As mentioned above, it is extremely costly to properly care for a child with special needs. Therefore, it is common that the amount of alimony to be paid will be higher than normal as well. Raising a child with special needs is equivalent to working a full-time job; it requires time, effort, patience, and the proper funds. Since these children necessitate extra dedication, a parent’s actual job and salary is often compromised.    

Determining if my child is eligible for public benefits

Typically, children with special needs are eligible for Supplemental Security Income. This supplementary income is meant for people with disabilities, whether they be physical or learning disabilities. Additionally, children with special needs are sometimes entitled to Medicaid. This is very beneficial to parents because it lessens the financial burden of paying for medicine out of pocket.