As the parent of a special needs child, you have likely spent the better part of your child’s life attempting to create a life for him or her that allows you to be there for him or her when a time of need arises. It can be an incredibly uplifting experience to see your special needs child have success in their life even if the success occurs in a rather mundane or routine endeavor. Admittedly, many other things that parents of non-special needs children may take for granted R experiences that you as the parent of a special needs child likely never would. We see situations like this occurring all the time during a Texas divorce or child custody case.

The special needs of your child likely are not limited to just one area, either. For example, if your child requires particular types of care in his or her education and schooling it may be that there are physical and non-physical elements to their disability or special need. While your child may need to be in special needs classes for a mental impairment, he or she also stands to benefit from continued care with their physical health as well. Please maybe needs that go beyond diagnosis made in medical records. 2 an uninitiated person there may be limited benefit from certain types of care period, however, because you are an attentive and experienced parent you can educate the people in your Child’s life about his or her needs.

When we consider the daily needs of your child it can be breath breathtaking the extent to which his or her life requires accommodations. You have likely spent no small part of your own life considering the needs of your child and to what extent your involvement is essential to their well-being and daily activities. Many times, a parent in your position will fear that a divorce or child custody case will hinder the development of your child due to the unknown future of the case and your post-case life.

More than anything, as the parent of a special needs child you are well versed at putting the needs of your child ahead of yourself. For many children who go through family law cases, there is some question as to what extent apparent understands that the case is meant to benefit them and not their parents. Judges are tasked with making decisions that are in the best interest of the child. There are no best interests of the parent’s standard but a judge must abide by them. The unfortunate part about the family law case that parents can sometimes lose track of what their goals are and what the reason is they’re even going through the case in the 1st place.

What many parents are left with is a battle of egos between dueling parties while the needs of the children are left behind. This doesn’t just happen with parents who are shortsighted or egotistical. Rather, even good parents can forget the purpose of their family law case and lose sight of their own goals and objectives. However, raising a special needs child has likely put you in a position where you would be unlikely to lose sight of what is most important in a family law case. Keeping your child at the central focus of your pursuit for justice should not be difficult at all. From my experience, it is second nature for a special needs parent. 

What does it mean to go through a family law case with a special needs child?

A piece of advice that I will frequently give to people going through family law cases in Texas is that you can wander into a family law case but you cannot wander out of one. More accurately, you can wander out of a family law case but you cannot expect to achieve any degree of success in doing so. Rather, if you are aimless and rudderless in a family law case the best you can probably expect to do is to get out of the case in one piece and hopefully in a reasonable amount of time. However, with what is at stake in your particular kind of divorce or child custody case this is not the approach that I would recommend.

Brother, when you go through a divorce or child custody case as the parent to a special needs child you need to have a plan in mind in terms of accomplishing your goals. Where can you begin with this? I think the 1st place because up to is having a goal for your case. This may sound overly simplistic but the reality of your position is that you need to have well-defined goals. Those well-defined goals are going to be based on the specific circumstances that you and your family find yourselves in. This means that the information that I’m about to give you should be applied to your circumstances since I’m not aware of exactly what you were going through.

First, you should consider the needs of your child right now. What is the age of your child? What are his or her educational needs? What are his or her physical and mental needs? How do you see you and your Co-parent fitting into that equation along with the teachers and doctors that are currently treating your child? Who has been the parent primarily responsible for coordinating efforts with all the above persons? These are the sort of basic, logistical questions that you need to be asking yourself as you approach this subject.

You do not need to have all the answers to these questions at the beginning of your case. On the contrary, it is very unlikely that you will have all the answers since you will be going through a learning process when it comes to a family law case. However, at the very least you can begin asking questions of your attorney and begin laying the groundwork with negotiating through these issues with your Co-parent. As much as people expect courtroom battles in a family law case, the reality is that most of the time family law cases, even once special needs children, typically come down to negotiations outside of a courtroom.

Once you have a better idea about what your child’s needs are and how you are going to negotiate through those needs at the beginning of a case you can begin to plan for your child’s future. Do you have an idea of what your child’s medical expenses will be in the next one, two, or five years? If your child is approaching the age of 18 will he or she require assistance from you or your Co-parent after this age? Do you need to make any special allowances when it comes to his or her health insurance? While his or her needs change over time for better or worse?

These are the sort of short-term and long-term questions that you should be asking yourself. Remember that you are not asking yourself these types of questions to frustrate you or to leave you feeling like there is more work to be done than you can process. What I would recommend is developing strategies for accomplishing the goals of your case once you have answered these questions. The answers to these questions said naturally lead you towards desired outcomes and within those desired outcomes you can create goals for yourself and your case.

Special issues when it comes to divorce with a special needs child

To wrap up today’s blog post I would like to talk to you about special considerations that you may need to think about as you begin various types of family law cases. Certainly, issues regarding child support, child custody, and a host of other topics may be included just as much in a divorce as in a child custody case. However, I am going to do my best to highlight special considerations that you may need to make in each type of case so that you can begin your planning now and have greater time to come up with solutions that can benefit your child immediately after your family law case in years into the future.

In a divorce, you need to be aware of the needs your child has about handling differences in your home now that you and your spouse are no longer going to be living together or married. A lot will depend upon the age of your child. For younger children with special needs, there is not much that you can explain to your child about the end of your marriage. Likely, the biggest impact of the divorce on his or her life will simply be on possible disruptions to the quality of care he or she receives from their parents.

If you and your spouse had a system or routine in place as far as picking your child up from a babysitter, daycare, or school and ensuring that you or she was fed and cared for in the evening then you all will have to develop a new schedule and new approach to this subject. When you all negotiate on issues like visitation in your divorce you should be cognizant of the needs of your childbearing in mind his or her special needs. You need to ensure that the logical plans you have created will work for your child. It isn’t as if a young child with special needs can tolerate great disruptions to their schedule regularly.

If you have an older child who was in school with special needs then you will likely have to explain as clearly and concisely as possible what the divorce will mean for him or her. The conversation will sound a lot different depending on if your child has a special need based on mental or physical impairment. Either way, being succinct and clear about the changes that your child is going to experience is a great piece of advice to consider. You do not need to go into greater detail for the sake of making sure your child understands every aspect of the divorce. At a certain point, the information you provide is superfluous and does not benefit your child. However, if you keep it short and to the point, you do not risk oversharing with him or her.

Finally, for an older child with special needs, you need to be able to make sure that you have to take into consideration all of the information I have already provided you within this section but also consider the long-range needs of your child. In a typical situation, child support goes away for a boy or girl when he or she graduates from high school or turns 18, whichever is set to occur later. With that being said, your child may be in a different situation as far as getting a high school diploma. Some special needs children require additional time in high school or the equivalent based on their needs and circumstances.

Considerations regarding child support for a special needs child

Child support is typically a pretty formulaic subject regarding Texas divorce and child custody cases. The net monthly income of the parents who will be paying child support is multiplied by a percentage based on how many children are before the court. These guideline levels of child support come right out of the Texas family code. One parent will pay the Child Support while the other received child support. This will occur until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school whichever occurs later.

However, as we have already been discussing today the circumstances of your special needs child may require a different type of attention to be paid to child support. If, for example, your child is unable to care for him or herself after he or she turns 18 then you may need to consider the possibility of having child support extend beyond age 18. For some of you with younger children, this will be very difficult as it may require a trip back to court in the future to modify your divorce decree.

For those of you with older children, you may be in a better position to be able to ascertain whether or not child support will need to be extended beyond age 18. Another important consideration needs to be paid to health insurance for your child. In many cases, a child can stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 25. If your Co-parent is paying child support through his employer or from another source he or she may need to work with the provider of health insurance to ensure that no lapses in coverage occur once your child turns 18.

Finally, you need to be aware of how non-covered or uninsured medical costs will be split up between you and your Co-parent in the future. Any typical divorce, uninsured medical costs are split down the middle between parents. Another way these medical costs could be split up is proportionate to your income. Meaning that the spouse two urns more money on an annual basis will be charged with paying more of the uninsured medical costs. 

Whatever your situation is you should be extremely intentional about how these sort of costs are divided up. This is especially important for any person whose child has medical costs that are oftentimes not covered by insurance. You and your attorney should go through different plans of attack when it comes to handling this subject and negotiating it with your spouse or Co-parent throughout the family law case. It may take many rounds of negotiation to settle upon a percentage split between you and your Co-parent that suits all parties.

Final thoughts on family law cases with special needs children

Raising a special needs child is a dignifying experience. For one, being in a position to raise your child with special needs focuses the attention on your child and allows you to show off the dignity of his or her life. By the same token, the love your child has for you reflects the same dignity that is inherent in you and your co-parent. The mother may be stress is associated with raising a child with special needs there certainly are benefits that are both tangible and intangible.

With that said, there are challenges associated with going through a family law case with a special needs child. For that reason, you need to have an attorney by your side who has experience in handling matters related to child custody and divorce with a special needs child. 

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are uniquely positioned to assist you in your family during your own special needs divorce or child custody case. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.