Challenges for Divorces with Special Needs Children

Children are often the primary concern when parents decide to divorce, and if one child has special needs, the worries only compound. A child with special needs may have a less concrete understanding of what divorce means or struggle with the sudden changes in their day-to-day life. As a parent, it’s important to be aware of these challenges ahead of time so you can plan accordingly.

As you begin the divorce process, remember that you do not have to do this alone. Call Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 to set up a consultation.

Child Support Calculations May Be Different

Calculating child support for a neurotypical child or a child without physical limitations is fairly straightforward. However, children with special needs often need more care in daily life. This may make child support payments significantly higher. If a child regularly receives physical or occupational therapy, attends after school programming unique to their needs, or requires occasional respite care, those expenses could change child support payments.

Custody Decisions Look At Who Can Best Meet the Child’s Unique Needs

Every custody issue comes down to what is in the child’s best interest. Making this determination may be more challenging when it comes to a child with special needs. Does one parent have more experience or training regarding the child’s medical needs? Is the child more comfortable with one parent? Does one parent’s work schedule prevent them from providing the ongoing care the child needs? If there are other children with typical needs, will their custody schedule be affected? These are all questions that must be answered before a satisfactory parenting schedule can be created.

SSI Payments May Be in Danger

If the child receives SSI payments for their disability, note that child support payments are typically considered income. It’s important to work with an attorney to find an arrangement that best meets the child’s needs.

Health Insurance Coverage is Paramount

Health insurance coverage is important for any child, but for a child with special needs, even a single day of lapsed coverage could be a disaster. Additionally, the child’s care needs may be extensive. Parents may need to compare the plans available to each party to figure out which plan will cover more of the child’s costs and choose accordingly. If this means going through one parent’s employer, child support may need to be adjusted to accommodate these expenses.

Special Needs Children Often Need Substantial Emotional Support During Divorce

Divorce is hard on any child, but children with certain special needs may struggle even more with the sudden change in their life. Kids with certain developmental or mental health challenges often rely heavily on routine. If one parent suddenly stops coming home after work or is only available on weekends, that enormously impacts their mental wellbeing. Children in this position may act out, regress in different ways, or lash out at the present parent. Before announcing the divorce to their children, divorcing parents should consider these possibilities and find ways to minimize their special needs child’s distress.

Long-Term Needs Must Be Considered

Parents of special needs children know very well the worries that come with aging. If their child is unlikely to support themselves or live alone as an adult, they know how important it is to plan for their child’s long-term needs. These issues should be part of the divorce agreement. Divorcing couples will need to discuss in detail what their arrangements will be throughout the child’s time in school, after they leave high school, and beyond. These discussions may even extend into estate planning as they determine what their child will need to live comfortably and safely throughout their lifetime.

Living Situations

If the child in question has particular physical needs, each parent’s living situation will need to accommodate those needs. This could seriously limit both parents’ options if the child has a wheelchair or requires a special lift. These considerations may impact custody, visitation options, and other parts of the divorce agreement.

Contact Kirk Drennan Law Today

Divorcing is difficult when you have a special needs child, but with careful planning you can minimize your child’s concerns and growing pains. To discuss your divorce and create a plan that meets your needs, contact Kirk Drennan Law to set up a consultation. Call us at 205-803-3500 or get in touch online.

Common Financial Issues During a High Asset Divorce

High asset divorces are considerably more complicated and drawn out than divorces between partners with a standard amount of assets. Whether you are a high earner in the marriage or not, you have a lot to lose in a divorce. It’s important to know the common pitfalls of a high asset divorce and avoid them with the help of a high asset divorce attorney.

To discuss your divorce in greater detail, contact Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500.

Proper Asset Valuation

A number of high asset families have money tied up in unique or “niche” assets. These require specialized valuation, as turning to a professional who handles this issue in “regular” divorces could lead to wildly inaccurate estimates.

Getting proper valuations can be time-consuming as parties may dispute the other’s choice of valuator. Your attorney can help you work through these issues.

Hidden Assets

When there’s a lot at stake, people are far more likely to engage in unethical behavior. Don’t be surprised if one party hides assets. Whether that means one party hiding some of their income in a separate account, “giving” assets or funds to family members, or squirreling away cash, these issues can lead to egregiously unfair agreements that leave one party with far more than the other. Whichever side of the divorce you’re on, plan on a full forensic financial audit to ensure that all assets are accounted for.

Maintaining the Family’s Lifestyle

The issues that are relatively easy to decide in a standard divorce become more complicated when lots of money is involved. Consider, for example, child support and alimony. The goal of child support is to ensure that a child enjoys the same standard of living at both parents’ homes. If one partner earns a large salary and the other earns much less, the higher-earning parent may have to pay a large amount of child support to make up the difference.

Alimony strives to support the lower-earning spouse until they have the chance to get the education or training they need to support themselves. However, in a high asset divorce, it’s likely that closing that gap is impossible. The parties must find a fair compromise that does not deprive either party.

Income Variances

Families with substantial assets often have multiple income streams. This makes it extremely difficult to determine child support and alimony when compared to a family that has a steady paycheck. The court must find a way to ensure that both partners are treated fairly while taking into account the fact that income could vary substantially from month to month.

Foreign Assets

If any of your assets are tied up in foreign businesses, properties, or bank accounts, your divorce could take much longer than expected. You may need to valuate and access these assets before they can be fairly divided in a divorce.

Drawn Out Divorce Process

All of these issues often lead to an extremely long, complex, and drawn out divorce process. Divorce moves most quickly when both parties agree on the important topics and compromise on everything else.

This is much less likely to happen in a high asset divorce than in a standard divorce. Both parties have plenty to lose if they compromise too much or agree too readily to the other party’s terms. While an agreement is generally reached before court, it often takes a substantial amount of time to come to a fair compromise on just a single topic. When you repeat that over and over for each asset and each issue within the marriage, you’re quickly spending all your time in negotiations.

While you should have a divorce lawyer regardless, it is even more important in a high asset divorce. You can expect the other side to fight hard for what they deserve, so you need your own attorney to avoid getting steamrolled.

Find Out How Kirk Drennan Law Can Help You

Are you in the midst of a high asset divorce? We can help. We know how much you stand to lose, and our goal is to help you get what you deserve. Schedule a consultation now by calling Kirk Drennan Law at 205-803-3500 or contacting our team online.

Personal Space: Jessica Kirk Drennan

A one-on-one conversation with Jessica Kirk Drennan, family law attorney.

B-Metro: What got you into the law and specifically family law?
Drennan: I grew up in a small town, Alexander City, so the big guys on the block were the lawyers and the doctors…that’s who you respected in town. That’s how it was in a small town. I wasn’t interested in medicine, but I really was attracted to the law from the time I had a mature thought about it.

B-Metro: What attracted you to the law?
Drennan: I liked the analysis of it and the verbal aspects, the debate. I have always liked that. I don’t consider confrontation, confrontation, I consider it discussion. It’s a lost art. And it is civil not uncivil. So I just always loved the idea of justice and I have always been for the little guy. That’s what attracted me to the law.

B-Metro: What was your first job like?
Drennan: After Tulane I went to work for a judge at first. Then I came home and a lawyer in town, Tom Radney, who was a big personality, called and wanted to know if I wanted a job. So I went home, interviewed and got the job. He talked the judge into releasing me from my clerkship and I went to work for him.
Six months out of school I went home and started practicing.

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Jessica Kirk Drennan to Serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers

As part of Kirk Drennan Law’s commitment to serving the community, Jessica Kirk Drennan will be serving as Vice Chair of the Board for the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program for 2017-2018. The Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program helps attorneys provide free legal services to low-income citizens unable to afford attorneys who need help with civil legal problems. The program provides legal help on issues such as evictions, collections/garnishments, divorce, child support, visitation, and other civil problems to those unable to afford it.

Visit the Birmingham Bar Volunteer Lawyers page here. You can read more about Jessica Kirk Drennan’s volunteer activities on her attorney profile.