Divorce with Special-Needs Children
Having children will inevitably add strain to a marriage, but having children with special physical or developmental needs brings unique challenges and stress. Worries about the health of your child or affording the expenses of caring for a child with special needs can present a degree of stress on a relationship, causing marriages for parents of special needs children to fail at a higher rate than the general population. When going through a divorce, there are certain issues to keep in mind that affect a custody arrangement and division of property for those with special needs children.
Child support will deviate from the guidelines
Kentucky uses a rigid set of guidelines to determine the amount that the non-residential parent will pay in child support. However, the law governing child support calculations allows for deviations from those guidelines where a child has extraordinary medical, educational, job training, or special needs. If you plan to have residential custody of your special-needs child, take the time to create a budget documenting all of the expenses you can anticipate. Alongside your attorney, determine how you can prove your child support needs with documentation. Be sure to discuss eligibility for any public benefits with your attorney, as well, and ensure that your child support arrangement accounts for such benefits, rather than rendering your child ineligible for them.
Consider your child’s life-long care during a divorce
Most parents can assume that, by the time their child reaches adulthood, they will be able to care for themselves both physically and financially. Parents of special needs children may know that this will never be the case, and must plan to offer their child a lifetime of support. Even if your child is young at the time of a divorce, discuss with your co-parent how you might begin to prepare for your child’s future care. This might be a good time to set up a special-needs trust or other savings account, or to discuss assisted living options or guardianship. Additionally, child support payments may need to be extended into your child’s adulthood, rather than ending when your child reaches the age of majority.
Find a way to stay in close communication
You may not be eager to stay in communication with the spouse you’re divorcing, but if you’re a parent of a child with special needs, you don’t have much of a choice. Even more so than with typical children, parents must continue to coordinate their special needs child’s appointments with doctors and therapists, and ensure that their schedule caters to their child’s needs for stability and routine. Some parents find that working through a mediator helps them stay in contact and make decisions regarding their child’s treatment and education. Additionally, there are a host of apps and software options such as “Our Family Wizard” which offer parents a way to stay connected without ending up in heated conversations.
If you are in need of skilled and compassionate legal assistance with your divorce or custody dispute in Kentucky, contact the Louisville family law attorneys at Gwin, Steinmetz & Baird for a consultation, at 502-618-5700.