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The Hawkins Law Firm The Hawkins Law Firm
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Three Important Considerations in Divorce When a Parent of a Special Needs Child


Just as parenting a child with special physical or developmental needs requires an extraordinary amount of attention, divorce when you’re a parent of a child with special needs requires a greater amount of planning for the future and coordination with your spouse than the typical divorce. Read on to learn more about the issues to keep in mind when going through a divorce as a parent of a special-needs child.

  1. Ensure that child support does not interfere with any public benefits, and meets your child’s care needs

There are two important considerations when determining the appropriate amount of child support for a special-needs child: the costs of your child’s care, and the public benefits to which your child may be entitled. If you plan to be the primary caretaker of your child, be sure to take the time to determine the costs you’ll incur in caring for your child, such as medical expenses, costs of therapy, and household costs. Your attorney will help you determine how to prove these expenses in court, and to prove the necessity of going above the standard child support calculation guidelines, if necessary. Additionally, be sure that the child support calculation accounts for any public benefits to which your child may be entitled now or in the near future. Child support in too high an amount could exclude your child from receiving these benefits, without the proper planning.

  1. Find a way to stay in touch that minimizes conflict

Most divorcing couples aren’t eager to remain in close contact after a split, but when raising a child with special needs, you’ll need to be able to remain on the same page regarding medical and therapeutic appointments, as well as exchanging updates on your child’s condition and any additional needs. Many co-parents have found that communicating through electronic means, such as shared Google Calendars or programs such as Our Family Wizard, can allow you and your co-parent to stay on the same page without being in direct contact.

  1. Discuss and plan for your child’s long-term care

If your child will need life-long care, it is important to begin planning for this care as early as possible. Discuss where your child will live, and what money will be used to support their care, before a divorce. Consider using a portion of your divided marital assets to create a special needs trust for your child’s future care, and discuss whether you will need to request an extension of child support payments beyond the typical cut-off point if you do not anticipate your child being independent upon reaching adulthood.

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