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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.