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Divorce Tips If You Have a Child With Special Needs

Divorce always affects the children involved, but in the instance of a child with special needs, a divorce may become even more life-altering. The amount of time needed to care for a child with a disability and the potential for much higher childcare and medical costs make clear plants for immediate and future care necessary for a divorce agreement.

Here are some tips you can follow if you are planning a divorce and have a child with special needs.

Consider Custody Complications

Many parents share custody and have children spend weekends and school vacations with one parent while the other tends to their needs during the school year. The swap between houses can cause complications as children leave behind their favorite toys or miss time with friends, but a child with special needs can have much more concerning issues.

The parent without primary custody may live too far away from a specialist the child sees regularly. Disabilities may require special medical equipment or home accessibility that prevents the child from moving easily from one home to another. Autistic children that thrive under a routine and need specific external stimuli may suffer from the move back and forth. 

Recommendations from doctors, counselors, and teachers familiar with the case can help to decide what is best for the child. Shared custody may include a restriction for one parent to visit their child rather than to have them stay in their home. Or both parents may need to invest in medical equipment or other necessities to keep the child safe and comfortable everywhere. 

Plan for Expenses

The 2000 U.S. Census reported that families with special needs children have a 21 percent higher poverty rate than other families. About 70 percent of children in single-family homes live in poverty. The reality is that single parents that raise children with disabilities will often struggle financially. Without an adequate income, the care of the child could suffer.

Any divorce agreement should include a clear plan of how the family will meet the financial needs of the child. Child support is always a consideration during a divorce, but in this instance, the amount of support normally considered adequate by the state may leave the parent with primary custody the responsibility for most of the cost of care.

The concern becomes even more severe for parents that cannot work full time because they are the physical caregiver of their child. Child support may need to continue beyond the age of 18 if the child cannot earn a living on their own. California law requires both parents to contribute to the care of any disabled adult children unable to provide for themselves.

Address Future Concerns

Parents can underestimate the effort required to care for the child if one parent was the primary caregiver. Know what role stepparents may play in the care of the disabled child, and create a daily care plan that details everything the child needs. A care plan ensures that anyone that enters the life of the child will have the ability to offer a consistent experience for them.

Insist that each parent contributes to a long-term care insurance policy so the child has security after both parents are gone. Insist that upon death any income from retirement plans and life insurance payouts go directly to a special needs trust. Trusts of this type ensure there are financial resources for the child without affecting their disability-based health insurance plans.

At the Fredrick J. Northrop Law Offices, we understand that all parents worry about the future of their child. A child with special needs can increase concerns. We make certain that all agreements address every issue so parents can start their new lives confidently. Contact us to learn how to protect yourself and your children during and after a divorce.