Divorce and Custody of Children with Special Needs

Divorce is difficult enough. When you add children to the mix, it becomes harder. And if any of those children have special needs, it takes a creative, caring, and compassionate attorney to navigate the rough waters of a divorce involving support and custody of children with special needs.

If you are the parent of a child with special needs who is considering divorce, questions regarding child custody, visitation, child support, and property division become significantly more complex. If you and your spouse can remain amicable throughout the divorce process and beyond, keeping the needs of your special needs child paramount, you will have taken a significant step towards successfully managing your child’s transition into adulthood.

Planning for a Divorce Involving a Child with Special Needs – What Your Attorney Needs to Know

As an attorney who handles divorce cases that involve children with special needs, my goal is to identify and understand the child’s needs and best interests, and work to craft a resolution that will best meet them.

When you think about meeting with your central-Florida divorce attorney, understand that there are some basic questions your attorney will want to consider when advising you on a divorce involving a child with special needs:

  • Where do the divorcing parents agree and disagree regarding the needs of their child and how best to address them?
  • Who will be the custodial parent?
  • How much contact will the non-custodial parent have with the child?
  • What about contact between other family members and the child with special needs?
  • How much contact and communication will there be between the parents?
  • Who will pay child support, in what amount, and for how long? Will the need for support continue after the child has reached the age of 18?
  • Will a future Guardianship be beneficial or necessary?

To prepare to answer these questions, a useful tool can be walking your attorney through a typical “day in the life” of caring for your child. Consider both day-to-day activities, as well as broader requirements that your special needs child will face. Arming your attorney with this information will help her to effectively advocate on your behalf, and craft a resolution that will address the unique challenges posed by caring for a child with special needs.

Divorce Agreement, Parenting Plan, Child Support, and Alimony

When a child has special needs, special care must be taken when addressing the divorce agreement and parenting plan, as well as child support and alimony payments. Your central-Florida divorce attorney will need to consider parenting arrangements, and how best to facilitate your child’s transition to adulthood.

Child with special needs often have additional educational requirements. Also, transitioning from one home to another may be more difficult for a child with special needs than it is for other children. These factors should be accounted for when addressing a shared parenting plan. Ideally, the divorcing parents will be able to work through these issues together, focusing on what is best for their child.

Managing the care of a child with special needs can be a full-time job. The effect on the custodial parent’s income must be considered when addressing alimony payments. Most child support charts do not address the additional expenses incurred when caring for a child with special needs. Your attorney will need to address specialty medical care, services, equipment, transportation, prescription and non-prescription treatments, and paid respite care for the custodial parent.

One challenge is that child support and custody agreements typically end when a child reaches 18 years old or graduates from college. Divorcing parents of a child with special needs must plan for future care of their child, including the possibility of life-long care and co-parenting, even after the child reaches the age of 18.

The divorce agreement should plan for and address future Guardianship issues, and take into account your family’s eligibility for public benefits, both when your child is under 18 years old as well as when they become an adult. A special needs trust may be appropriate. You should also consider coordination with various public benefits, gifting strategies, and long-term care insurance.

Considering Divorce and Have a Child with Special Needs? Contact The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher Today

At The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher, I make caring for your special needs child a priority in the divorce process, and support my clients in making the best decisions they can for themselves and their families.

If you are the parent of a child with special needs and are considering a divorce, contact The Law Office of Jody L. Fisher today to talk to a member of our team, or to schedule a consultation. Call (352) 503-4111, email, or complete our online form.

Based in Leesburg, Florida, I proudly work with families throughout central-Florida.

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