Special needs child support in New Jersey


by Jeralyn Lawrence, Family Law Attorney, Lawrence Law

I often hear attorneys say calculating child support is the easiest part of their job. In New Jersey, we have Child Support Guidelines. As such, the New Jersey guidelines will be presumably accepted by both the parties and the Court.

Child support is based on the parties’ respective combined available net income. The support is to cover a host of the child’s expenses.

Child support payments continue until a child is emancipated. Emancipation may, or may not, be at 18 years of age. Generally, emancipation occurs upon the graduation of college. Regardless, the law is that it stops when a child moves beyond the sphere of influence of their parents. In other words, the child is self sufficient.

Special Needs Children

For families, however, with a special needs child or children, child support may never stop. A special needs child may never move beyond the sphere of influence of their parents and may never be self sufficient. Consequently, it is a case by base analysis and wholly dependent on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Two significant factors that must be considered are the nature of the child’s special needs and what intervention or therapy the child receives to address the special needs.

Child support does not stop for special needs child. Actually, additional support may be required to care for a special needs child.

Extraordinary Needs

Extraordinary needs may include the following:

1. Specialized therapy like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy.

2. Specialized equipment like a wheelchair, an automobile with a wheelchair lift, lavatory lifts or hoists.

3. Medications. How many? How often? Are these medications covered by insurance?

4. Are there special dietary needs and what are those expenses? Does the child require special meals or need to refrain from certain ingredients?

5. Is the child in a mainstream school or an alternate school? Are there tuition expenses? Are there transportation issues and costs?

6. What medical insurance coverage is in place? Who covers the child? Does the plan cover specialists? What are the anticipated medical expenses? Is there a life-long cap to the policy?

7. Are home renovations necessary to accommodate the special needs child like ramps, widening hallways, entryways, etc.?

8. Does the child require special supplies such a blood pressure monitor or other medical supplies?

9. Is there an IEP (Individual Educational Plan) in place? Was it necessary to hire an attorney to fight the school board on placement or continued placement? What is the division of those counsel fees and costs?

There are other considerations in a case that involves a special needs child because the needs of the child may frequently change. In every divorce case, there must be flexibility to make changes as the need arises. Please contact me at moc.m1604180398rifwa1604180398lwal@1604180398ecner1604180398walj1604180398 if you have questions about this post or any other family law matter.


Jeralyn Lawrence is a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung. She also serves as Second Vice President of the New Jersey State Bar Association (slated to become President in 2022), is the Past Chair of the Family Law Section of the NJSBA, and serves as Second Vice-President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. She can be reached at moc.m1604180398rifwa1604180398lwal@1604180398ecner1604180398walj1604180398 or (908) 645-1000.

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