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Divorce and the Special Needs Child

During divorce, a couple with a child with special needs requires experienced legal help.

According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 68 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is often attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Still other children suffer from birth defects or other disabling conditions or birth injury.

The strain of caring for a special needs child can, by itself, contribute to divorce. When a marriage breaks down, the responsibility of crafting a suitable, supportive life for their child is a priority of most parents.

During divorce, issues that arise concerning the care of a special needs child include:

  • The need to create an appropriate parenting time plan is essential. Unlike more usual parenting time schedules, children with special needs often do not thrive with a schedule that requires frequent transition.
  • If one parent has been the dominant care giver, that history should be taken into account when considering custody.
  • During divorce and after, parents must continue to make decisions concerning appropriate medical and other therapies. In a contentious divorce, this task is made harder and could require legal intervention.
  • At divorce, couples should consider lifetime care of their child. Should a special needs trust be established?  What steps can be taken to ensure the child qualifies for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) when he or she reaches that point?
  • In New York, courts have the authority to make child support rulings outside of state guidelines when the care of a special needs child is at issue. Parents might consider lifetime payments to a trust, or additional child support until the child is 21 or older.

No divorce is easy. Creating a good environment for your special needs child requires experienced legal help. When you have questions about providing for your special needs child during and after divorce in New York, call me at Bryan L. Salamone and Associates, P.C.

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