Divorce is a stressful and emotionally draining process for most couples, but for parents of a child with special needs, it can be even more difficult. In addition to all of the usual considerations in a divorce, such as the division of assets and the negotiation of child custody and child support, you’ll need to take into account factors like the child’s need for medical care, financial support, and a comfortable living situation, both now and in the years to come. When you’re going through a Texas divorce with a special-needs child, it’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side to help make this process easier. With the right divorce attorney, you can make the best decisions for your family.
In any divorce involving children, child support is a focal point for negotiations. However, for children with special needs, extra considerations need to be taken into account, such as medical expenses, higher expenses for daily living, and the economic impact on the custodial parent, who may not be able to be employed full-time while still meeting the child’s needs. And in many cases, these issues won’t end when the child turns 18: Even if they’re legally an adult, they may still need to be taken care of.
The Texas Family Code allows for child support payments to continue indefinitely past age 18 if the situation meets two requirements:
The child requires substantial care and personal supervision and is not capable of self-support.
The disability existed on or before the child’s 18 birthday.
What About the Child’s Social Security and Medicaid Benefits?
If the child’s care relies or will rely on Social Security income, Medicaid benefits, or both, this can further complicate decisions about child support. In some situations, you may need to establish a trust to hold the child support payments to ensure that this money doesn’t make the child ineligible for necessary public benefits. A skilled family law attorney can help you to ensure that the child’s needs are taken care of both now and in the future.
Custody and Living Arrangements
A traditional custody agreement may not always be suitable for a child with special needs. During the divorce process, both parents will need to agree on a schedule that offers the least disruption for the child. For example, in a traditional custody agreement, moving the child back and forth to ensure that they have a suitable amount of time with both parents may be in their best interest, but for a child with special needs, this lack of stability and routine can be detrimental. You’ll also need to consider accessibility issues. One parent’s home may not be a practical living space for the child, either because of a lack of physical accessibility (such as ramps and/or elevators for a child who uses a wheelchair) or a lack of proximity to the child’s medical care providers. With all of these details to consider, parents may need to get creative while working out living arrangements for their special-needs child.
After the child turns 18, the parents will have to consider what the next steps are. If the child’s disabilities mean that they cannot live on their own, their parents may need to establish legal guardianship. A guardian steps into the shoes of an adult with special needs and makes decisions on their behalf. This isn’t required for every special-needs child: There are plenty of cases where limited guardianship is a better option. However, if it’s decided that the child needs a guardian, the parents will have to determine which one will be appointed in that role. In the case of an amicable divorce, both parents could serve as co-guardians and have an equal legal right to make decisions as long as they agree. If amicable decision-making is impossible, the issue of who will be appointed as the child’s guardian will need to be worked out with the help of an attorney.
Navigating a Texas divorce with a special-needs child is a unique life experience. When you work with a seasoned family law attorney, you’ll have the knowledge you need to create a safe and stable future for yourself and your child. Contact Goranson Bain Ausley today for a consultation on your case.
A zealous advocate for clients as they face some of the most challenging times of their lives, Carlos provides an empathetic and strategic approach to helping clients achieve an optimal outcome in their family law or divorce matter. He listens deeply to clients’ concerns, fears, and goals and works in partnership with clients to create a plan for achieving what is most important.
If you have questions about divorce and your special needs child, please get in touch with Carlos Gracia at GBA’s Austin Family Law Office.
Our attorneys are experienced in all aspects of family law and will guide you through each step of the process, ensuring you have the information you need to make wise decisions and prepare for the future.