Tips For Expertly Navigating Special Needs Issues in Divorce

The decision to divorce is never easy — especially for special needs moms and dads already managing complex parenting roles. As a special needs parent, your divorce issues are unique. If you are considering a divorce or going through the process now, we have some important tips to help you navigate the process.

1.     Hire a divorce attorney who is experienced with identifying and addressing special needs issues. 

Interview several attorneys (or better yet, ask others who have been through it for a referral) and ask them to describe the issues they anticipate will arise in a special needs divorce to demonstrate their true experience. Save yourself aggravation, time and money later by hiring a well-versed attorney at the outset. (While our firm does not practice family law, we can share referrals to trusted and competent attorneys.)

2.     Consider the long-term care needs of your child. 

Does your child require a caregiver, whether due to age or the extent of his or her disability? Be sure to consider the custodial parent’s ability (or inability) to work outside the home and whether diminished earning capacity will be addressed in financial settlement.

3.     Decide how you will share the role of guardian for your child as an adult

If your child will require a guardian upon turning 18, how will you share that role (or not share) with your ex-spouse? Will you be co-guardians, or one primary guardian and the other parent a back-up? Will your spouse cooperate with applications for government benefits? Is your child registered on the PUNS list? We often represent a parent facing obstacles from a former spouse to pursue these critical benefits for their child. Consider incorporating solutions for these avoidable issues in the final orders to avoid delay, frustration and expense later.

4.     Extension of child support. 

In a typical divorce, child support will generally end when your child turns 18. For most special needs families, this general rule doesn’t make sense and should be negotiated to continue.

5.     Financial planning. 

If child support continues after your child’s 18th birthday, and he or she receives SSI benefits, you must consider an ABLE account or first-party special needs trust to avoid termination of those benefits. Be proactive and address this issue in your settlement, even if your child isn’t close to the 18th birthday.

Need Divorce Consulting Services?

Our Firm offers Divorce Consulting services where we partner with your divorce attorney to advise on the issues described above. Contact us to discuss your case.