Raising a child with special needs is challenging. Sadly, the stress of the situation contributes to the high rate of divorce among couples who are raising children with special needs. In fact, it is estimated that the rate of divorce in these households are between 80% and 90%. Planning for special needs children in a divorce takes special consideration and attention.
If you are going through a divorce and have a child with special needs, you should consult with a Special Needs Planning attorney who can help you ensure that your child’s long-term needs are met. Your lawyer will help you work through the decisions that need to be made –such as who will be responsible for making medical, educational and housing decisions after the divorce. Your attorney can also identify future costs to be certain that those issues are specifically set out in the divorce agreement.
You should also talk to your Special Needs Planning attorney about the effect that a divorce will have on access to government benefits and whether child support payments will reduce the child’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid. Losing access to these benefits could be detrimental to your child’s future, especially since they cover essential services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy.
You should also consider the possibility that your child will need a legal guardianship when he or she turns 18. You should work with your soon-to-be ex-spouse now to plan for future guardianship to avoid a contested court battle later.
In many cases, establishing a Special Needs Trust can greatly enhance the quality of life your child enjoys after the divorce. It is often possible to direct payments from an ex-spouse to a Special Needs Trust that has been set up for the child’s benefit.
All divorces are difficult. However, when you are planning for a child who will need lifelong support, it is essential that you plan carefully. Getting a Special Needs Planning attorney involved as early as possible in the divorce process can help ensure that your child is protected long into the future. If we can help you as you work through the process of planning for special needs children in a divorce, please contact our office at (571) 328-5795 to schedule an appointment.