Parents of children with special needs face unique challenges compared to other parents. They must often act as their child’s advocate, negotiate the public benefit system and try to support their well-being. During divorce, parents of special needs children must ask additional questions to ensure that their child has the support they need.
Will your child struggle with custody and visitation arrangements?
Some special needs children find it particularly difficult to change their normal routines. Other children rely on one parent or a nearby specialist to care for them. In these cases, you may need to adjust your child custody and visitation arrangement to support that need.
If you receive government support, how will you and your ex structure your child support payments?
Many families with disabled children rely on government benefits to support their child’s well-being. Divorcing couples often need to carefully consider their child support payments in order to maintain their child’s eligibility for government assistance and also create a fair child support arrangement.
Some couples establish a special needs trust in order to support their child while not damaging their eligibility for government programs. The court may order that child support payments fund a trust so that custodial parents can fully use their child support without limiting their child’s public benefits.
What are your child’s future needs?
For most families, child support ends when their child becomes an adult. Families with disabled children, on the other hand, may involve much longer child support arrangements. In some cases, however, the court may order child support for a longer duration if your child’s disability will prevent them from supporting themselves as an adult.
How will your child’s needs impact spousal support and property division?
Depending on your exact circumstances, your child’s need may factor into other aspects of divorce. If you have remodeled the family home or purchased a specific vehicle to accommodate your child’s physical needs, for example, that property may need to go to the parent with primary custody. If the custodial parent must provide care for a special needs child, that may prevent them from reentering the workforce, and this could leave them in need of spousal support.
Your child’s needs are unique, and you should work with an attorney with experience in representing the parents of special needs children in divorce. They can help you answer these questions and more to create a plan that gives your child the support they need while protecting your rights as a parent.