“In a divorce case where there is a child with special needs or a disability, are there special considerations that the family law attorney should be aware of when requesting child support or alimony?”
Child support can impact a child’s SSI check from the federal government on a monthly basis. SSI, Supplemental Security income, is intended to pay and provide for that disabled individual’s food, shelter, and basic necessities. If a child is getting money from another source to pay for their food, shelter, and basic necessities, the Social Security Administration will simply say you don’t need as much in SSI payments on a monthly basis because you’re getting money from somewhere else to pay for the same thing. Because of that, child support payments can actually be managed in a way to maximize the SSI check while still setting aside the funds in a vehicle or a trust to provide for that child’s care.
Child support payments, if they’re paid to a custodial parent of a child who is over the age of 18 and living in that parents’ household, if that child is on SSI and receiving an SSI check, that child support payment is considered unearned income to that child even if it’s paid to the custodial parent directly. Because it’s considered unearned income, it’s going to reduce that child’s SSI check dollar-for-dollar on a monthly basis if they’re over the age of 18.
We work with family law attorneys to help structure a child support payment, while still not disrupting an individual’s necessary SSI check, to have those child support payments court-ordered and directed to a self-settled special needs trust. Those self-settled special needs trusts, once the funds are received, can be used to pay for things other than food and shelter for that child. And the child’s SSI check coming into the household on a monthly basis can be used to pay for the basic necessities.