Divorcing When You Have a Special Needs Child: Strategies for a Fair and Safe Outcome

Many couples remain in troubled marriages far longer than advisable, simply because they fear the impact of a bitter divorce on their special needs children. Although understandable, this approach arguably puts these children through even more grief. Keep reading to learn more about special considerations in special needs divorces:

Visitation: Minimizing Adjustments
Many families schedule visitation every weekend or every other weekend. This approach can be problematic for parents with special needs children, as they struggle with constant changes in environment. These children may need to spend more time with the primary custodian, with the other parent perhaps visiting the child at his or her permanent residence. If visitation occurs in a separate environment, the non-custodial parent should maintain the child’s routine, as significant disruptions can cause undue stress.

Consider Benefit Eligibility
Child support negotiations prove simpler than many parents anticipate, thanks to charts and algorithms applied across the board to all dissolution cases. Unfortunately, typical child support and alimony charts fail to take benefit eligibility into account. Custodial parents who receive direct child support payments may struggle to retain eligibility for means-tested benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income. An attorney with experience in both divorce and special needs law can better determine how a particular arrangement will impact eligibility.

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Child Support: Providing For Extra Care
Caring for special needs children can prove exceptionally costly; while the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a total cost of $240,000 for raising children until age eighteen, those expenses may quadruple for those with significant impairments. Camps and activities that may be considered ‘extra’ for other children could be deemed necessary care for special needs children. Mediation and collaboration allow parents to work creatively to arrive at an acceptable financial solution in which both parents contribute to ongoing childcare needs.

Parenting Doesn’t End At Age 18
Some parents can cut their kids loose at 18, but special needs children often require structured care well into adulthood. Parents should work together to determine how they’ll cover such care when no longer guided by local legislation—and what will happen when they pass away. Estate planning is essential, particularly for those who wish to identify a guardian or set aside necessary funds in a revocable or irrevocable trust.

The right approach can minimize the impact of dissolution on your children. The family law attorneys at DiPietro Family Law Group can help.

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