Creating a Long-Term Plan for Special Needs Child During a Divorce
Although divorce is hard on any child, taking care of special needs children is more complex. If you are the custodial parent, you need a long-term plan to care for your child beyond his or her age of majority and perhaps even beyond your own lifetime. It is important to have professional guidance to ensure you create the best plan for your special needs child. Let’s look at the main areas of concern.
The child’s home and care was formerly shared by both parents. In divorce, it is generally handled by one parent, often due to transportation and facilities issues. The custodial parent may have to obtain additional services to maintain the right level of care. Even if your ex-spouse assumes some of your child’s care with the cost of additional services, it’s important to account for that in the marital settlement agreement.
Creating a New Stability
Special needs children require consistency and structure just to get through a day. You may need to spend a lot of time getting the child to accept and feel comfortable with the changes in routine that come with divorce. You may need supplemental help from therapists and caregivers to reach a new stability.
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of your special-needs child’s financial needs. This is especially important if your child is eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Any alimony or child support payments have to work in conjunction with benefit eligibility. Be sure you understand the eligibility requirements for immediate and future needs.
Medical and Educational Issues
Anticipate both expected and unanticipated expenses. Look at the current deductible, co-pays, home therapy sessions, personal care supplies as well as specialized equipment, such as wheel chairs and vehicle modification. Consider what costs are not covered by health insurance or other programs.
Your child will eventually move out of the education system as he or she reaches their majority. Consider special education requirements, additional tutors, evaluations, legal fees, adult occupational programs and support services as your child transitions into adulthood.
Who will serve as your child’s legal guardian? What can you do to ensure the guardians are able to maintain your child’s physical, emotional and financial well-being? Your marital settlement agreement needs to account for long-term care in case of your death or disability. Consider consulting with a financial adviser and an attorney who specialize in special needs planning. Look into how trusts can secure your child’s future in the event of your death.
With a team of divorce mediation professionals, you have an invaluable resource to help you and your spouse best determine how to ensure your child’s future and your peace of mind.
For a perspective on one mother’s journey, read Divorce and the Special Needs Parent
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