Children with Special Needs and Divorce
Parents of children with special needs have all the responsibilities which come with being a parent and those required to meet their child’s unique requirements. Often caring for their children needs means being a diligent advocate for their medical care, education, and therapeutic services. When families in this situation are faced with divorce, there will be additional concerns when it comes to planning for their child’s needs.
In Florida, how parents spend time with their children or “time-sharing” will be reflected in a parenting plan which has been approved by the court as being in the child’s best interest. While the law supports time-sharing which allows children ongoing contact with each of their parents, when a child has special needs, the time-sharing arrangement may need to be structured according to their requirements. For instance, if the child’s condition causes them to have issues if there are too many changes to their environment, it may be better to allow one parent’s home to be where they spend most of their time rather than frequently going between two residences.
In Florida, one parent may be ordered to pay child support for the care of their child. This support ordinarily ends when a child turns 18 or is 19 and is completing high school. However, when a child has a substantial physical or mental disability which prevents them from being self-sustaining, child support may be extended into their adulthood. The support term will depend on their condition and, in extreme circumstances, maybe for life. Moreover, in addition to providing for routine expenses, the support amount will need to be inclusive of any added costs related to the child’s special needs such as those associated with medical and specialized care.
Florida law supports parenting plans which include terms for parents making decisions together concerning their child. Ideally, parents will be on the same page when it comes to their child’s medical and psychological care and educational needs. However, if the child has extensive special needs and the parents do not agree on critical issues, the consequences can be serious for the child. In this scenario, it will be vital that parents either find a way to work together, create a way for a third party to make the final decision when parents disagree, or that one parent has primary decision-making authority.
Going through a divorce while looking out for your child’s special needs can be overwhelming. At the Draper Firm, we have the knowledge and experience you need to help you understand your options and make informed choices for your family. If you need advice concerning your parenting agreement and how to plan for your child’s unique requirements, please contact us to schedule a free consultation.