Raising a special needs child is expensive. The cost of frequent doctor visits, medications, specialized nursing care, and other accommodations can put stress on a family’s budget. The parents of special needs children may seek financial help through Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

SSI is an income-based government program that provides a monthly check to parents of disabled children. In order to receive SSI for a child, a parent must fill out an application with the Social Security Administration and provide proof of the disability. Once approved, the amount of the monthly check is determined by the family's current monthly income. While the additional money helps, there is another benefit to receiving SSI. Any child who receives SSI is automatically enrolled in Medicaid, which covers the child's medical bills. The child can receive Medicaid, even if the family only qualifies for $1 a month in SSI benefits.

Receiving SSI and Medicaid can ease the financial burden of raising a disabled child. However, receiving SSI does not excuse a parent's child support obligation. In California, both parents must provide support to the child.

However, California child support and spousal support can affect the amount of SSI that is received. Since child support is paid exclusively to cover child’s expenses, it is considered income to the child. The Social Security Administration counts two-thirds of the family's child support payments toward total gross income and will reduce the amount of SSI that the child receives accordingly.  In some cases, SSI may be cancelled because child support or spousal support makes the family’s income too high to qualify.

Losing the medical coverage provided by Medicaid can be devastating for a family’s finances, even with child support. 

There are other options. The SSI program defines income as "anything received in cash or in kind that can be used to meet needs for food and shelter.” When working out a settlement for your divorce, you can ask your spouse to pay certain expenses or bills instead of paying support directly to you. If your ex provides vehicle payments or insurance payments in lieu of support, your child may be able to keep his benefits.

If you receive SSI benefits for your child, your San Francisco divorce attorney should consider your child’s needs and the financial implications of child support and spousal support when drafting your divorce settlement agreement. The San Francisco child support lawyers at the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan will consider your family’s needs and advise you accordingly. To schedule an appointment, call 415-341-1144.

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