Very few things are more difficult than going through a divorce and having
a child with special needs. When custody determinations or modifications
and other family law matters involve children with disabilities, the decisions
regarding the best interests of the child can often have heightened layers
of complexity and strain. Here’s what you should know:
1. Determining Your Child’s Best Interests Is Challenging
Regardless of your situation, a child’s best interests are always
going to be a challenge. However, a disability and a child’s care
needs make this aspect a bit more difficult to iron out. If you’re
going through a divorce, you must carefully consider the following:
- Who will the child live with?
- How will child support be paid?
- How much contact is each parent to have with the child?
- What are the child’s care needs?
- What is the cost of care for the child?
If both parents want to be equally involved in the raising of the child,
a joint custody arrangement may be in the child's best interests.
However, if one parent was the primary caregiver before the divorce, the
courts may decide that it’s in the best interest of the child to
live with that parent.
2. Child Custody and Visitation Is Unique
A typical visitation schedule may not work for a family with a special
needs child since they often need structure, consistency and reliable
routines. When you’re creating a visitation schedule you must consider
- Who’s picking up the child?
- Will the child travel with other children?
- Does special equipment need to be transported?
Additionally, both parents must be flexible, as health issues can easily
disrupt visitation schedules from time to time. It may even be necessary
for both parents to live in close proximity to the child's medical
3. Parenting Plan Must Be Detailed
A parenting plan is an important part of any divorce. However, in a divorce
with a special needs child, it must be detailed enough to include the
day-to-day care of the child, such as:
- Behavior management
- Adapting surroundings
4. You Must Make Financial Considerations
A child with special needs may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income
(SSI). Child support payments and alimony must be structured around the
child's benefit eligibility. Parents should work with a family law
attorney and financial adviser to help reduce the risk of forfeiting the
child’s benefits. If a child loses SSI, they may also lose Medicaid
health care coverage.
If you’re going through a divorce and have a special needs child,
please contact our
Murrieta family lawyers at Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich for a free consultation. For
over a decade, we have been representing residents in Southern California
in family law matters, and we are prepared to fight for you.
or contact us online
to get started towards a brighter tomorrow.