While divorce is difficult for any child to cope with, the process can take an even greater emotional toll on children with special needs. Special need children often require more support overall, which generally makes the issues of child custody, visitation, and child support more complex to negotiate. It is important that you make sure you understand what your child’s special needs are so you can ensure that they will be covered after your divorce has been finalized.
Issues That May Arise with a Special Needs Child During Divorce Proceedings
There are many issues that may need to be addressed during a divorce if you have a child with special needs. These include but are not limited to the following:
A child with special needs requires a particular amount of support. While this varies according to the child, these additional expenses may include extra medical care, special needs education, therapy and counseling sessions, and special nutritional requirements. You child may also require certain medical equipment to move around or the professional services of a physical therapist or occupational therapist. The uncertainty surrounding the nature and cost of future care makes it difficult to estimate disability-related expenses in a divorce agreement.
Breakdown of a routine
Special needs children get attached to their routines as it provides them with comfort. For instance, for a child with an autism spectrum disorder, transitions, like a change in routine, can be very stressful. While determining child custody and visitation, you will want to ensure you can accommodate your child’s needs and preferences as best you can.
It can be difficult to transport a special needs child’s medical equipment every time he/she goes to spend visitation time with a parent. You will need to determine if both you and your co-parent should have your own medical equipment for such purposes. You might also need to decide if you would like to share a vehicle if your child requires a car with a wheelchair lift. If the child uses a nebulizer, you may want to decide if one should always be kept with each parent in case of an emergency.
Co-parenting is not always easy, and it can get even more difficult if you have a special needs child. While some special needs children can live independently, many cannot and require the assistance of their parents. As such, you and your co-parent will need to learn to put your differences aside and work together. This can put a burden on some parents who wish to get divorced and go their separate ways. As a result, co-parent disputes and disagreements can increase.
There are also many concerns to agree on when parenting a special needs child and the parents may have differing views regarding medical care, educational options, and the necessity of therapy.
You will need to be careful with how you structure child support awards as your child could lose his/her Medicaid eligibility if you are not diligent. While this matter is not relevant if your child is still on your insurance plan, it will become an issue when your child can no longer remain on your health care plan. An experienced attorney that specializes in custody of special needs children and special needs divorce can ensure your child maintains eligibility.
Transition to adulthood
Special needs children require special care as they transition to adulthood. As special needs children mature, their parents will need to determine what is best for them. This means you will need to work with your co-parent to decide if your child should go to high school and continue to college, live independently, or secure a job right after completing high school. Some kids will need continuous support throughout their life while others will not.
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