When two parents are attempting to work together in the best interests of their children while undergoing divorce proceedings, the process is already a difficult one. Determining how to share responsibilities and rights while keeping the good of each child at the forefront of decision-making with a partner with whom you no longer want to build a life can be made even more complicated when there is a “special needs” child who must receive love and care from all parties. Child support charts like those typically used to determine parental responsibilities often do not account for the additional expenses and requirements that are involved in caring for a child with special needs. When working through this particularly delicate process, special care must be taken to address the additional complicating factors that may be an ongoing part of the lives of both the child and the parents.
When determining primary custody and child support responsibilities, both parties will need to consider the child’s eligibility for public benefits both as a minor and as an adult. An experienced child custody attorney will be sure to take all the steps necessary in the planning process to ensure that as the child ages and as factors in the family’s situation may vary, the child is not placed at risk of losing the support of potentially crucial public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid. Addressing how alimony and child-support payments may affect eligibility for benefits must be addressed in the planning stages of the divorce to ensure the best ongoing care for the child.
The ongoing care of a child with special needs often becomes a full-time job for the custodial parent. When structuring alimony and child support, it is important to consider how taking excellent care of the child will place additional time and resource burdens on the parent who is given primary care responsibilities. In many cases, this will entail caring for the child for a period of time significantly longer than the age of a minority, and perhaps indefinitely, so the terms of alimony and child support should be crafted to reflect this additional need.