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How is Divorce Handled for Parents of Special Needs Children?

Franklin divorce attorney explains special considerations in these cases

Children with special needs get special consideration in a divorce. These children may need to get many types of services or medical care, ranging from “simple” services like speech therapy and tutoring to intensive care like full-time, in-home care from a qualified provider. Not only do these children require much more financial support, but they also require a different level of care from their own parents (even if their parents aren’t providing medical care).

Exactly how a divorce will unfold depends a great deal on what kind of special needs the child has. Who the primary residential parent will be is the first issue that many couples look at, and the answer depends on things like who has the flexibility in their work schedule to take the child to and from appointments, who will be able to spend the time with the child that is needed, who is committed to getting the child all the services that are needed, who has the patience and dedication to caring for the child the way that is needed, and so on. Obviously, there is a great deal of subjectivity in some of these assessments, which is why it is so important to work with an experienced divorce attorney.

I work with witnesses and experts to help my clients make their case to be primary residential parent. That might include asking experts to testify on what the child needs and why, and then calling on witnesses to testify to facts that help me argue for how or why my client would best be able to meet the child’s needs. I would also build a strong argument for the parent’s fitness based on past behavior and actions.

Once the primary residential parent is determined, the other issue that most divorces focus on next for the children is financial support. Some people try to rely on online calculators or worksheets to figure out a financial agreement between themselves. However, the basic worksheets don’t take into consideration the many additional needs that some children with learning disabilities, medical conditions, or other special needs have. The children may need extensive medical care, mental health therapy, in-home aides, learning therapy, speech therapy, medications, and more. These things can cost thousands of dollars per month. Child support for children with special needs must take into consideration more than the income of each of the parents and the time spent with the children. It has to take into consideration the cost of all the child’s current and future needs.

Other issues that I work on with my clients with children with special needs include creating a visitation schedule that is sensitive to the best interests of the child, determining who makes ongoing health and educational decisions for the child, and creating a plan for the child’s transition to adulthood, if there are special concerns. In some cases, children with special needs may never become independent adults. These are issues that must be addressed in the parenting plan.

A divorce with a child with special needs can quickly become complex. If the parents aren’t on the same page about how to split care for the child, the case can go on for some time and become quite costly. I am Judy A. Oxford, a Franklin Tennessee divorce attorney. I help my clients negotiate or litigate a settlement a quickly as possible and help them ensure that the best interests of the child are maintained. Call my office today at (615) 791-8511 or use my secure online form to schedule a consultation. We can talk about your legal options and start making plans to ensure the best interest of your child.