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When You’re Getting Divorced, And You Have Special Needs

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There are, unfortunately, several medical afflictions related to physical, behavioral, and developmental disorders that affect children, and alter their needs as they grow. While some children may be born with special needs, others may face challenges later in life.

While divorce is always arduous and stressful, a divorce that involves children with special needs may impose several additional demands on the divorcing couple. In such divorce cases, even the regular issues of child support, child custody, visitation rights, and property division, take on substantially more complicated undertones.

While staying together for the sake of a special needs child may seem more ideal, it will only complicate the situation further if the marriage is beyond repair and rehabilitation. It may not be fair, both for the parents, and the child, to exacerbate everyone’s plight by doing so. 

Calculating Child Support and Future Health Care

Child support charts cannot provide a complete perspective of the extra expenses required for the maintenance of a child with special needs. All kinds of special needs, such as specialty medical support, equipment, non-prescription health care, nutritional supplements, respite care for parents; are heightened.

With special needs children, estimating disability-related costs and expenses of future medical care is a difficult exercise because of the inherent uncertainties. Divorcing parents can consult health care and medical professionals working with special needs children to formulate a strategy that takes into account the present condition as well as the future limitations of the child, in order to minimize disruption in the child’s life.

In divorce, calculation of child support needs to be done in a manner that best provides resources for the special needs child. Spousal maintenance may also be called for in cases where the full-time caregiver responsibilities of a special needs child are taken care of by a custodial parent.

As a part of the divorce, you need to consider your child’s special needs and future well-being, while trying to identify and understand what is in your child’s long-term interest, as best as you can.

Parental Custody and Child Support

It is essential to spell out detailed instructions and information while formulating a parenting plan during divorce proceedings. What must take precedence in divorce proceedings involving a special needs child is how much you and your spouse are in agreement over your special child’s disabilities and future needs.

Putting down all of this on paper will make the answers clearer to questions like: how much contact, both in terms of access and visitation, will each parent be allowed? Will the custodial parent take on full-time responsibility as a caregiver for the special needs child? Who will pay child support and in what amount?

Typical Issues in the Divorce Agreement Involving a Special Needs Child

It is imperative to pay special attention to certain areas of concern with regard to a special needs child’s transition into adulthood. Issues like parenting arrangements, guardianship, estate planning, independent living, and custodial care need to be looked into earnestly while formulating a divorce agreement.

Divorcees with special needs children face the reality of being life-long caregivers, while most of the parents are relieved of custody and child support when their children attain the age of majority or graduate from college. Consequently, any payments for the purpose of alimony or child support must take into consideration the child’s public benefits eligibility, both as a minor and as a young adult.

Therefore, it becomes important for your family law attorney to work in tandem with a special needs lawyer and an accomplished financial expert to cut down any risk of surrendering the special needs child’s entitlements. The expertise of legal and financial professionals is required to understand how direct child support payments made to the custodial parent could negatively interact with public benefit programs like Medicaid and SSI.

Special Needs Trusts for Children

Some of the common resources available to pay for the needs of a special needs child, are spousal maintenance, child support, Social Security disability, Medicaid, and a portion from the community estate. When allocating these resources, a special needs or supplemental needs trust can be set up, and some amount of money can be transferred to it directly.

The trustee in a special needs trust bears the responsibility to hold and look after the assets for the benefit of the special needs child. They are also responsible for making all the payments and financial distributions as and when required. Without a special needs trust, all payments received by the special needs child may be considered as part of the income, affecting qualification for Social Security benefits.

Accomplished and Compassionate Kentucky Family Law Attorney

At John H. Ruby & Associates, our skilled special needs attorneys can help you take a practical view of the special needs that exist and guide you towards appropriate solutions that address these issues in the arena of divorce. We offer practical and strong legal guidance on divorce and other family law issues.

If you and your spouse are considering divorce or separation, contact us to discuss all your legal options. Call us today at (502) 373-8044 or contact us online to set up a free case consultation.