Lawyers Helping Families Sort Out Legal Matters

Custody of your special needs child could affect spousal support

Parents considering divorce often have to spend some time examining how their divorce will impact their children. For parents with special needs children, it can become much more complex to navigate a divorce without the process impacting the well-being of their child.

From shielding your child from anger between you and your ex to planning for their financial protection in the event that you die, there are many unique considerations that special needs children require during divorce proceedings.

They may have such a high need for care that one spouse will have to remain out of the workforce indefinitely. If that is the situation for your family and you have always been the caregiver, it may be possible to seek spousal maintenance to offset the financial impact of custody of your special needs child.

Does your child have needs that keep you from working?

Many daycare centers and childcare providers will not accept special needs clients because of the increased workload that special needs kids often create. Even those that do take special needs children may charge a premium for the service.

After a divorce, you may not have enough income to offset the expense of hiring someone to care for your child. That may make it seem like a better decision to stay home with your child. The obvious issue with this approach is that although you save on childcare costs, you will also lose out on much or all of the income you could otherwise earn.

Child support from your ex may cover some of your costs and expenses, but it may not be enough for you to survive and continue to provide care for your child. Although it is uncommon for Texas courts to order permanent spousal support (also called maintenance) in a divorce, a scenario that involves a special needs child may be one of the few situations in which the courts will approve a request for substantial or permanent spousal maintenance.

Prepare yourself to defend your role as caregiver

If you have spent most of your child's life providing care for them, you may think that the courts should immediately allocate custody to you. However, it is tragically common for spouses who want to avoid child support or spousal support to request full or shared custody for the sole purpose of reducing their financial obligations in a divorce.

That could mean that you need to demonstrate to the courts that your child will benefit from you continuing to provide full-time care for the child, instead of your child moving back and forth between your house and that of your ex.

With all of the unique considerations for a special needs child in divorce, it makes sense for parents in Texas thinking about the end of their marriage to consult with an attorney who has experience in this delicate and niche area of law.

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