If you child faces physical limitations, learning disabilities, health impairments, autism or other developmental limitations, he or she may be considered a “special needs” child. If you are considering divorcing your spouse, according to author Barbara Epperson, it is important to consider the unique factors that should be considered:
- Visitation schedule. Your family may not be able to use the visitation schedules that are most commonly used in divorces. A special needs child often requires a strict schedule and consistency in his or her life, so you should be prepared to create a strategy for how (or if) your child will travel, any equipment or mediation that is needed, specific dietary needs, as well as whether your child must remain close to specific medical professionals.
- Child support. Even if you have insurance, caring for a child with special needs can be costly. As a result, the standard child support guidelines followed by most courts do not properly account for the expenses associated with providing for your special needs child. It is important that the court is informed of the costs associated with your child’s care including necessary medical equipment, therapy, prescriptions, and relief care, modifications to your house or vehicle, and any other health care expenses. It is also important to determine whether you and your ex-spouse will be required to provide financially for your special needs child for his or her lifetime.
- Individualized Education Program. If your child is placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you must decide whether one or both parents should be required to execute the IEP. Thus, your divorce decree should set forth the expense of the additional educational expenses and how these expenses will be divided and paid between the parents.
- Transitioning into adulthood. If your child’s circumstances warrant it, your divorce order may need to cover issues such as guardianships, eligibility for government benefits and independent living.
- Supplemental Security Income. If your child is eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it is imperative that any alimony paid to the primary caregiver and child support payments is structured in a way that protects the child’s SSI eligibility.
- Special Needs Trusts. A divorcing couple should plan for their child’s long-term care with a special needs trust. This type of estate planning tool can help protect your child now and in the future.
Whether your divorce is amicable or full of disputes, we are here to help. Contact the knowledgeable attorneys at the Men’s Divorce Law Firm. Our office is located in Orlando, Florida, but we proudly serve husbands and fathers across the State. The firm also serves men out of state with child custody interests in Florida.