If you are a parent of a special needs child, you already know how much more challenging your days are providing care, education, treatments, and socialization for your child. Divorce is often an emotionally charged event for a couple with no children, quite a bit more so for a couple with children, and exceptionally challenging for a couple with a special needs child. Managing divorce with a special needs child requires a unique perspective and an exceptional attention to detail.
If you already work with a lawyer to maintain or procure government benefits for your child, be sure to share this information with your Findling Law divorce lawyer. The two will work together to ensure that any benefits your child is receiving or may be entitled to are not jeopardized by support payments. Similarly, if you have any other professionals involved in the preservation or maintenance of money or assets for your child, like an accountant or tax advisor, be sure to mention this as well.
Best Interests of the Child
In every case involving child custody, courts consider the best interests of the child. We have explored this topic many times in this blog, and we’ve looked at many of the elements that the court will weigh in any divorce case involving children. When managing divorce with a special needs child, the court will look at a long list of factors to determine:
- who the child will live with – and that may mean which parent will have legal custody while the child lives in a care facility;
- what sort of visitation is appropriate for the non-custodial parent; and,
- whether any support should be paid – and, if so, by whom.
Standard support charts and calculations are unlikely to provide sufficiently for children with special needs. Consider all of the expenses your special needs child racks up – even all the little things that you are used to picking up on your way home from work that you might not normally even think about.
What are the costs that your child incurs on a weekly basis? Monthly? These may include medications, vitamins, tutors, special diets, therapists, orthotics, special programs or equipment, caregivers, and even regular respite care to give you some time off to refresh yourself. Go through a day in your child’s life. Write down everything that your child does, attends, requires, or uses. Discuss this list with your lawyer.
Thinking about the Future
Additionally, while your hands are completely full with divorce, life decisions, and caring for your children, remember that the plans you are making now need to carry well into your child’s future. This is the perfect time to consider the (very) long-term and take some extra steps by creating a trust that will ensure that your child is cared for or make provisions in your will. Your Findling Law lawyer can have this conversation with you and offer you some options that you may not have known you had. Considering the long-term care needs of your child is an important part of your role as a parent, and an important part of the parenting plan that you and your spouse are forming.
Putting Your Heads Together
Giving thought to how to manage your divorce with a special needs child is best done from the very beginning and is most effective and successful if both spouses can communicate and engage in decision making that makes sense to both sides. For you, however, it is critical that you communicate with your divorce lawyer to ensure that the details of your child’s care are clearly understood so that expenses can be covered, support be provided as needed, and both you and your child have what you need to move forward toward your new happiness.
About Findling Law
Findling Law, PLC – 414 W. 5th St. Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
I have been exclusively practicing divorce and family law in Michigan for over two decades. The attorneys at Findling Law all share the core value of practicing law to help people navigate change in their lives, without compromising principles. We specialize in high socio-economic, high-profile and high-conflict cases, while also working with clients of all backgrounds. We recognize that the most important aspect of the practice of law is the application of the law to your specific circumstances.That is why we provide more free information on divorce and family law than any other Michigan law firm. We want to help you manage your situation. Allow our exceptional legal team to help you navigate the change in your life, without compromising principles.
By: Daniel Findling
Divorce & Special Needs: How is divorce different when you are the parent of a special needs child?