Alabama family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and child support payments are complex and emotional issues to begin with. But the situation becomes even more complicated when a child with special needs is involved.
If the best interests of a child with special needs are to be served by Alabama courts, they must be known and fully understood from the start. A child’s needs must be handled with the utmost care at every step of the legal process (custody and visitation arrangements, child and spousal support calculations, etc.)
How to Get Custody of a Special Needs Child
At New Beginnings Family Law, we understand on a personal level the struggles that parents of special-needs children face. Our managing attorney, Amber James, has a child with autism. As a result, she has a thorough understanding of the challenges and the unique joys that come with raising a child with special needs. You can count on our skilled family law attorneys to:
- Discuss in detail any special needs your child has
- Determine who has been or will be expected to be the primary caregiver for your child
- Determine how much you and your spouse agree about your child’s abilities and disabilities
- Collect your child’s medical records, therapy records, and educational records to document needs and costs
- Advise the court, judge, and other affected officials as soon as possible that your case involves a child with special needs to ensure the impact on your case is understood and accounted for
- Focus on an outcome that provides a stable and comfortable home for your child
- Tap our deep roots in the Huntsville area to refer you and your child to additional assistance and services, if necessary
- Remain available to you to talk or answer questions about your case
- Extend a genuine empathy and understanding to you based on personal experience with complicated family law matters
There are so many things to consider when a divorce involves a disabled child or a child with special needs. If you are a divorcing parent dealing with modification of special needs child support terms, or other family law matters, please contact our knowledgeable Huntsville family law attorneys today. Let us discuss how we can fight for your child’s best interests while ensuring that your child is protected throughout the process.
We Understand and Advocate for Special Needs Children
A child with special needs is a person who has had a clinical diagnosis that shows a functional development level that requires assistance. “Special needs” includes a variety of physical disabilities, medical conditions, intellectual difficulties, and emotional problems, including:
- Autism or autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- Learning difficulties
- Behavioral problems
- Cerebral palsy
At New Beginnings Family Law, we recognize that a child’s special needs can occupy every aspect of the primary caregiver’s or custodial parent’s life. We also understand the child’s resulting need for additional medical care and therapy, special education, adaptive equipment in some cases, and other potentially costly requirements, which may extend into adulthood.
We also recognize, through published research and our own experiences, that children’s special needs can stress and strain even the healthiest relationships. This stress can lead to divorce and cause conflict during a divorce. High levels of open conflict in a divorce proceeding can put any child at risk of developing behavioral problems or developmental delays. Children with special needs are often even more sensitive to change, conflict, and stress in their family life.
Our compassionate special needs attorneys will seek to keep conflict between you and your spouse at a minimum during a divorce. We will help facilitate fair and equitable resolutions to disagreements you may have. At the same time, we will fight to protect you from any agreement that would leave you at a disadvantage.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you.
Special Considerations for a Divorce with Special Needs Children
It is an unfortunate but unavoidable fact that parenting a child with special needs is more expensive than raising a child with typical needs. The focus of assisting a parent in divorce proceedings, and in particular as child custody and child support issues are negotiated, must be on ensuring that the financial impact of a child’s special needs is understood and accounted for in the resulting divorce agreement.
At New Beginnings Family Law, our compassionate lawyers will make sure your special-needs child’s issues are addressed appropriately throughout the different stages of the case, including as we:
- Draft pleadings. Upon filing with the court, we will make certain the judge understands the case involves a child with special needs, and that this impacts the specifics of custody, visitation, child support, alimony (spousal maintenance), etc.
- Engage in discovery. We will obtain all records pertaining to the child (medical, school IEPs and 504 plans, etc.) and work to identify each spouse’s understanding of the child’s needs, as well as their past and current contributions to the child’s care and ability to care for the child in the future.
- Calculate spousal support and child support. In the initial divorce pleading, we will state the need to deviate from the standard child support chart (Alabama Schedule of Basic Child-Support Obligations). We will document expenses related to your child’s special needs and, through negotiation with the non-custodial spouse or in court, seek payments that meet the child’s multiple needs. In many cases, the time required by a child’s special needs will be detrimental to the custodial parent’s career and earnings. This must be accounted for as spousal maintenance is set.
- Develop a parenting plan. Our objective will be to help each parent set aside their differences and collaborate on a parenting plan that meets the unique needs of their child, as well as the rest of the family. In cases of autism, for example, we will advocate following the child’s set routines and schedules as closely as possible.
- Draft divorce agreement documents. Each fact of the divorce agreement, especially those pertaining to the welfare of a child with special needs, must be plainly and expressly spelled out in the final divorce agreement. We will be meticulous in drafting our proposed wording on your behalf and aggressive in defending it against any objections from your spouse and/or the judge.
Schedule a consultation with our experienced divorce attorneys today to discuss your next steps.
Our Special Needs Attorney Can Help Today
Our philosophy in divorce cases is that it is better to settle marital disputes and craft a settlement agreement outside of court than it is to leave your family’s future to a judge who does not know you. Indeed, a judge who hears your divorce in an Alabama court will expect that you and your spouse have done everything possible to reach an agreement.
In some divorce cases, a judge might appoint a guardian ad litem to represent your child’s unique needs. Our attorneys understand and appreciate this protection, and we are experienced at serving as a parent’s liaison to the guardian ad litem.
As a family law firm, New Beginnings Family Law is dedicated to the protection of children. All children deserve to grow up happy, healthy, loved, and with the ability to love each important person in their lives. We will not stand for legal tactics that we believe will be detrimental to any child involved.