Special Needs Child Support: What You Need to Know

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Special Needs Child Support in Pennsylvania 

In Pennsylvania, children with special needs receive additional support because the mathematical formulas used to calculate child support do not independently take into account those additional expenses that the child needs. Evidence that items such as therapies, special needs camps/schools, transportation, additional medical intervention/support/devices, etc., are necessary for the child is critical in increasing the support award.

Length of Child Support for Special Needs Children

 In general, an order of child support remains in effect until the child turns 18 years of age, also known as reaching the age of “majority.” However, in the case of special needs child support, the order may extend past 18 years of age based on the case’s individual facts.

Special Needs Child Support for Children Over the Age of 18 

The Court will focus on the child’s ability to engage in profitable employment at a supporting wage (being able to support themselves financially) when considering extending the child support order for special needs children over 18. Parents should carefully consider the potential effect on a child’s ability to collect Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Medicaid or through other social programs, as well as alternative payment arrangements such as a “Special Needs Trust Fund” before petitioning to extend or modify the child support order. An experienced attorney can explain the options available to assist you in making your best decision for the child.

Are You Required to Pay Child Support for a Child with a Disability After the Age of Emancipation? 

Outside a showing of extraordinary special circumstances, the general answer is yes. The individual facts and circumstances of your child’s case will dictate the length of the child support order. 

Supplemental Security Income & Special Needs Child Support

Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) may be available to a special needs child who is unable to work and support themselves due to a disability.  It is essential to review this   with your attorney. 

Special Needs Trusts have been successfully used to protect the child’s eligibility for SSI and Medicaid. In short, the non-custodial parent would make their support payment directly to the Trust instead of the custodial parent. The Trust is then responsible for making disbursements for the care needed by the special needs child. In general, child support payments going directly to the Special Needs Trust are not considered income to the child. If you believe a special needs trust would benefit your child a Trust Lawyer would be the person you would contact for that.

When a Child’s Disability Began 

The onset of a child’s disability can affect the legal obligations of the parents. In general, if the disability occurred after the child reached the age of majority (18 years old), there will likely not be a legal obligation on the part of the parents. 

Final Thoughts on Special Needs Child Support

Ensuring that the child has the proper support for their unique needs can be complex, with many current and future considerations. Put our decades of combined experience to work for you! Having the best advocate and someone who truly cares about you and your family can make all the difference.

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