A divorce with children is always complex, but when one of those children has special needs, the issues of parenting time, custody, and support become much more complicated. Decisions for these issues must always be in the best interest of the child, but determining what is best for a special needs child may not be simple. Whether the child has a chronic disease, disability, or other special need, you will have to address those needs in your support and custody determination.
Get Help From a Family Attorney
It is best that you consult a family law attorney as well as a family therapist in these types of divorce cases. A therapist that is familiar with the child is best, or one that specializes in special needs. The therapist will be able to evaluate the child and make recommendations to both parents to assist them in creating an adequate custody/parenting plan. Also, the therapist may be able to take into account potential separation anxiety issues or effects the divorce will have on the child’s overall health. Depending on the type of need your child has, you may also need to consult their primary care physician.
Establishing a Parenting Plan
The parenting plan should spell out essential information and care instructions regarding the child. If one parent has been the primary caregiver of the child during the marriage, it is likely the courts will grant that parent a majority of the parenting time; however, the non-custodial parent will still be able to establish a visitation schedule. Depending on the child’s specific disorder, overnight visits may not be applicable.
The courts will take into account the child’s management, behaviors, medication schedule, treatments, monitoring, and their ability to adapt to new surroundings when approving a parenting plan.
Caring for a child with special needs is expensive. The standard child support algorithm used will not apply to divorcing couples with special needs children; instead, the court must use its discretion in determining an adequate support amount. Also, child support obligations may continue for the lifetime of the child, depending on their level of disability.
Just some expenses that will be calculated into child support for a special needs child include:
- Medical equipment costs
- Medical care
- Dietary restrictions
- Special modifications required for the family home and vehicle
- Caregiver costs
- Surgical costs
- Medical and life insurance premiums and deductibles
- Special education costs
With a special needs child, one parent may be the full-time caregiver of the child, which means that they cannot seek employment. The primary caregiving parent typically provides daily care, manages appointments, and coordinates other care needs. Because these activities interfere with their earning capacity, their potential for income is compromised. Therefore, the courts may grant spousal support to that parent.
Consult With a Family Law Attorney
It is important to consult an attorney early on to ensure your child’s needs are considered and fully appreciated during the divorce proceedings. The attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices are here to answer your questions and help you explore your options. Contact us online or call 732-603-8585 now to schedule your consultation appointment.