What to Know If You’re Divorcing and You Have a Child with Special Needs

What to Know If You’re Divorcing and You Have a Child with Special Needs

Divorce is always difficult, but when there’s a child with special needs involved it may be particularly difficult. These children are often especially sensitive to emotional upheavals and need to be sheltered from disturbing situations. Further complicating divorce when a child with special needs is involved is the fact that special arrangements for the child should be included in the divorce agreement.

For instance, if one parent stays home in order to take care of the child full time, this fact needs to be recognized in the support settlement. There may be other special expenses, such as special schools and medication that need to be calculated as part of child support. In some states a parent may even be required to secure his or her child support obligations with a life insurance policy.

There are often extra expenses for a child with special needs. Responsibility for medical and educational expenses needs to be specified as part of the divorce settlement. The child’s future needs may also need to be addressed. For instance, it may be necessary to eventually set up a guardianship. A special needs trust is sometimes created to ensure the child receives Social Security and Medicaid benefits.

In many divorce cases, decision-making is shared between the two parents. In the case of a child with special needs there are typically many complex decisions to be made, and if the parents have trouble working together it is important that the authority for making decisions is explicitly part of the settlement.

Children with special needs often have a high need for stability and routine. During the divorce it’s important to maintain regular schedules as much as possible. Changes should be made gradually. It is often difficult for a child with special needs to spend time in two different homes, and special custody arrangements may need to be made for the child to feel secure.

The divorce should take care of the child’s needs not only now, but in the future. If you have questions about some of the issues that arise when a divorcing couple has a child with special needs, we are happy to help. Please contact us today to learn more.

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