When a marriage dissolves, it is difficult for all parties involved. There is uncertainty about the future, and there are many important issues that must be resolved during the divorce process. When divorcing spouses have children, there are additional considerations, such as child custody, visitation schedules, child support, and many others. This is especially true when the couple has a child with special needs.
Families with special needs children have many unique concerns to deal with, and standard parenting plans may not be sufficient to effectively account for all the underlying issues that must be resolved. When the Connecticut courts consider child support and child custody arrangements, they are able to examine specific factors that must be addressed to ensure that the final divorce decree is in-keeping with child’s best interests.
Unique Considerations for Divorcing Couples with Special Needs Children
Raising a child with special needs can be a full-time job, and when parents get divorced, there are several additional complications that may need to be resolved. In the best-case scenario, parents should work together on these issues and begin addressing them at the beginning of the divorce process.
Some of the unique factors that divorcing parents with special needs children may need to look at include:
Child Custody and Visitation Arrangements
Standard custody and visitation arrangements typically call for the child to split time between each parent. This often means the child makes frequent transitions from one parent to the other. A child with special needs usually has more difficulty traveling back and forth between the parents. For this reason, it might work better to use a more structured visitation schedule in which the child has less frequent and more extended visitation periods with the non-custodial parent.
The Child’s Medical and Functional Needs
A special needs child typically requires ongoing medical care which often includes specialized medical equipment in the home and in-home visits from a health professional and/or caregiver. This may require the non-custodial parent to make special accommodations for the child when he/she comes to visit. In addition, child support payments may need to be increased to account for additional medical expenses that may not be covered by health insurance.
Special Educational Needs
Special needs children often have learning disabilities that require additional educational resources. This may include an individualized education plan, specialized schooling, in-home tutoring, and many others. The structure of the visitation plan needs to account for the child’s educational plan, and the cost of these additional resources should also be factored into the child’s support needs.
Eligibility for Government Benefits
Special needs children often qualify for government benefits to help cover the extra expenses parents incur to care for their child. During a divorce, eligibility for these benefits may be threatened by the child support payments and the income of the parents. This issue can often be resolved by setting up a special needs (OBRA) trust. These trusts have specific requirements and must be set up correctly in order to be used to house child support payments, so be sure to work with an attorney who has in-depth knowledge of this area of the law.
Adult Child Support
Usually, a parent’s obligation to provide child support ends when the child turns 18. This may not be the case with a special needs child. If an adult child is disabled and cannot live alone, parents must continue to support the child until either parent dies or until the child becomes able to live on their own. For support payments to continue, the child must have already been mentally or physically disabled before turning 18, and it must be shown that the child is still unable to function on their own after they reach adulthood.
Contact a Skilled and Compassionate Hartford, CT Divorce Attorney
Caring for a child with special needs involves unique challenges that require a full commitment on the part of both parents to provide for the child’s well-being. When parents get divorced, these issues can become more complicated, and it is important for divorcing couples to work together to continue to ensure that their child will be taken care of.
At The APEX Law Firm, LLC, we understand that divorce is a difficult and emotional time, and we work closely with our clients to listen and understand their specific needs, and to ensure that their interest, and the best interests of their children, are fully protected. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, call our office today at (860) 900-0900 or send us a message through our online contact form. You may also visit our Hartford County office in person at your convenience.