Divorce & Child Custody with a Special Needs Child

Child custody decisions are rarely easy but getting a divorce with a special needs child in the picture exponentially increases the number of decisions you have to make. Where do you begin planning for child custody of a special needs child? 

Daily Care: The first big question parents face is the question of where the child will live and with whom? The shift from a two-parent family to a one-parent family is a big one. The burden of care is going to fall more heavily on one parent. 

Think through a typical day in your child’s life now, before the divorce. What things are handled well by both parents? What things are handled best by one or the other parent (perhaps because of their schedule or their skill level)? 

  • Who has the time and ability to best handle your child’s daily needs?  
  • Who is more familiar with his/her medical issues and treatments? 
  • Will your child need to live in a particular county or school district in order to continue to receive services? 
  • For some children, continuity is critical. They don’t tolerate change well. Is this the case with your child? Would it be best to keep them in their current environment?

You may decide between the two of you that it’s better for your child to have one parent at home providing care, at least for a while. For example, it may be difficult to find appropriate preschool childcare because of their disabilities. Spousal support ensures one parent can afford to stay home. 

But talk to your child custody lawyer about the potential complications that different kinds of financial support can have on eligibility for government assistance programs like Medicaid. Financial Needs: Child support is typically determined based on a formula, however your child with special needs is likely to incur greater expenses than the average child. Take a moment to review the last few years of expenses to determine how much you have spent on things like:

  • Educational services and enrichment programs
  • Disability-specific summer programs
  • Childcare and respite care services
  • Medical care, therapy expenses, and special equipment
  • Non-prescription medical treatments

These expenses need to be factored into child support. Your Fort Worth child custody lawyer will need to make the case for increasing child support to cover them.

In any child custody case, parents will need to decide who will carry health insurance for the child. That’s extremely important for a special needs child. 

If your child’s disability is severe, he or she may never be able to live independently. In your discussions you may want to talk about how you will provide for your child in adulthood. That could include:

  • Guardianship 
  • Special needs trusts
  • Parental insurance policies to pay for services for the child after the parent dies
  • Inclusion in an estate plan

Call the Law Office of V. Wayne Ward for Help 

Contact Ft. Worth divorce lawyer Wayne Ward. The legal team at the Law Office of V. Wayne Ward is here to help. Mr. Ward has extensive experience helping parents consider the details of a child custody agreement. He is a strong advocate in court. Call 817-789-4436.