Considerations for Divorcing Parents of Children with Special Needs

No matter who you are, if you have children and are going through a divorce, it is a difficult process for all involved. There are many factors to take into account when any couple with children divorces, such as:

  • Dividing up marital assets
  • Setting up child custody and visitation schedules
  • Determining alimony and child support payments
  • Establishing a parenting plan

When a child with special needs is involved, these issues are infinitely more complicated and additional concerns must also be taken into account as the parents hammer out the details of their divorce decree.

Continued Collaboration

A special needs child may require on-going medical care and doctor appointments, numerous medications and physical accommodations, specialized schooling and summer camps, and a rigid routine for everyday living. If the parents are both to continue providing care for their child, a high level of collaboration is necessary.

Special Education

If the child is getting specialized education, schools generally need just one signature authorizing IEPs - Individualized Education Programs - even when the parents have joint custody. Divorcing parents need to address this issue with the child's school and establish how communication will be maintained with teachers and school administrators.

Transition Planning

Continued care is often required into the child's adulthood. Divorcing parents need to include in their divorce decree such topics as guardianship, group home or long-term custodial arrangements, employment training and social skill development.

Public Benefit Planning

Alimony and child support may alter the child's rights or access to governmental assistance, such as SSI - Supplemental Security Income - or Medicaid. Plan carefully to maintain your child's entitlement to such benefits.

Estate Planning

It is important to maximize estate and financial plans to provide for the child's current and future needs. Special needs trusts, gift planning and long-term care insurance should be addressed at the time of divorce to help secure future income for the child in the event of remarriage or death of either parent.

If you are contemplating divorce and have a child with special needs, obtain the support of a lawyer who has been through it herself and is knowledgeable about family law matters, especially those involving special needs children.