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Important Things To Know About Divorce & Children With Special Needs

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2018 | Firm News |

When you decide to separate or divorce from your spouse, it can be an extremely stressful and trying time, especially if you have children with special needs. Parents who have special needs children often face additional obstacles throughout the process of their divorce. Even when the divorce is amicable, the needs of children with disabilities can still have a major impact on the outcome of the settlement agreement. Issues about parenting schedules, decision-making, child support, alimony, and division of debts and assets are all significant when one or both of the parents have children with special needs.

Which Parent Will Make Major Decisions For The Child With Disabilities?

When speaking to a lawyer about your divorce agreement, ask about laws in your state that will impact decision-making for the child with disabilities. In some states, one parent will be designated as the sole authorizer of major decisions for the child if both of the parents do not agree to make joint decisions. Other state’s laws might require that parents make decisions about their child together. It is not uncommon for divorcing parents who have children with special needs to disagree about the following issues:

  • What therapists their child should see
  • What school their child should attend
  • What medical providers should treat their child
  • Whether the child should receive treatment from an alternative medicine practitioner
  • What special diet the child should follow
  • What medical treatments the child should undergo

If the parents cannot jointly make major decisions for their disabled child, then they should consider speaking with their legal representative about obtaining a court order through the divorce proceeding that will allow them to make major decisions about the child’s medical, therapeutic, religious, and educational needs. Parents can also think about seeing a professional mediator to get assistance with reaching an agreement for how major decisions should be made for the child with special needs.

How Will Extraordinary Expenses Be Paid?

When it comes to calculating an appropriate amount of child support, each state has its own process. In general, courts consider the following factors when deciding child support:

  • Monthly income
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Work-related day care costs
  • The age of the child
  • The number of children each parent has
  • The amount of time each parent has with the child pursuant to the parenting schedule ordered in the case

Parents of a child with special needs should never assume that a court will automatically account for extra expenses related to special needs care. This is why it is crucial for parents to create a list of the following expenses:

  • Child therapy
  • Education
  • Tutoring
  • Day care
  • Uninsured medical expenses
  • Special diets
  • Special hygiene products
  • Other necessary items like wheelchairs, walkers and car mobility aids

Parents should discuss these extraordinary expenses with their attorney to determine how they should be paid and allocated between both parents as part of their divorce agreement. When talking about child support with an attorney, discuss the amount of time that child support will be ordered for the child with special needs. In some states, the parent’s child support obligation will terminate when the child turns 18 years old. Other states allow for additional child support payments after the child turns 18, and if they attend a qualifying college. In some states, an adult child with a disability who is unable to earn an income might be entitled to receive child support. If you have a child with special needs who will need ongoing care as an adult, you need to talk to an experienced attorney or other professionals who are familiar with creating long-term care plans for future financial support. It is important to be as informed as possible about how support payments and/or money deposited into a trust account or savings account can impact your child’s ability to receive future state and federal assistance from programs like Medicaid and Social Security.

Get Help With Your Divorce Case Today

Are you getting divorced? Do you have children with special needs? Speak to the lawyers at Gossman Law Firm, LLC, to learn how we can make a personalized legal strategy to protect your rights and interests. Let us guide you through the legal process today.

Contact our Birmingham divorce attorney to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.