Divorce is difficult. What if you are contemplating divorce with special needs children? Your divorce and child custody arrangement could leave you with even harder decisions to make than in a typical divorce. The term "special needs" refers to a physical, developmental, or mental disability in a child. This can range from being on the autism spectrum to chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome. Not to mention hundreds of other disabilities in between. With the rising rates of autism, considerations for divorce with special needs children has become a more prevalent issue for family law lawyers today. A family will have many unique issues to consider before divorce and custody issues are completely different when a child with special needs is involved. The lawyers of Puhl Law Group, P.C. are well-versed in representing parents with special needs. In Texas, the courts practice what is in the best interest of the child. Texas Family Code states, "the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration of the court in determining the issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child." This goes for the child with physical, developmental, or mental disabilities too and has some special considerations for parents who are considering divorce with special needs children. Child Support for a Special Needs Child There are many added expenses that come with raising a child with special needs. Therapies, medicine and childcare are just a few. Some children with special needs will need support long after they turn 18. Many might live at home their whole life with a parent. That parent will still need some financial help to care for their child long after typical child-support would be completed. The Texas Family Code provides that the Court may order either or both parents to financially support a child:
- Until the child is 18 years of age or until graduation from high school, whichever is later;
- Until the child is emancipated through marriage,
- by court order, or by other operation of law;
- Until the death of the child; or
- If the child is disabled, for an indefinite period.
As number 5 states, "It can be an obligor's duty to pay child support longer than the typical 18 years. " A Parenting Plan that Benefits the Special Needs Child A big concern for parents of children with disabilities is being able to maintain a consistent home life and routine. If one home is equipped better for a child with special needs, parents might want to consider alternative visitation schedules. Some kids might get upset moving from house to house. In that case, it may be in the best interest of the child to keep their normal routine going and have the other parent visit them at the primary home. This routine can be important for the health and development of a child. A child could also be set up with equipment that helps them live a fuller life. It might be life-threatening for the child to leave this behind in a standard custody arrangement. Maybe one parent is better suited to get a child to the many appointments needed, or a parent lives closer to a school that is the right fit for the unique needs of a child. A spouse that constantly travels a lot for work would most likely not fit that bill as the primary caretaker of a child with special needs. Parents may have hurt feeling or feel vengeful towards the other parent during a divorce but it is worth putting pettiness and anger aside to make the best parenting plan for your child to thrive. These are just some of the issues that can arise when you go through a divorce and have a child with special needs. It is important to have a board-certified family law lawyer on your child's side that understands the unique issues of a special needs child. Reach out to the Puhl Law, P.C. for an appointment.