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Special Needs Children and Divorce

Naperville Family Law Attorneys

Special Needs Children and DivorceWhen a divorcing couple has children, the divorce is considerably more complex than a divorce between childless individuals. Issues to determine in a divorce between parents include creating an appropriate parenting time schedule, determining each parent's responsibilities to the children, and determining a fair child support amount to provide for them after the divorce. When one or more of a couple's children has special needs, these issues can become even more complicated. A child with special needs might never become independent as an adult, which can mean his or her parents must continue to support him or her into adulthood. Other issues to consider include ensuring the child has access to academic or medical resources.

Extending Child Support Beyond Childhood

Generally, child support orders require the paying parent to provide child support until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs later, but not continuing past the age of 19. Under Illinois law, a child support order may be extended if he or she has significant special needs that require him or her to remain in the care of a parent or other legal guardian as an adult.

The child support order itself may vary from an order created for a child without special needs, because it may include expenses like medical equipment and the costs of private, specialized education or therapies not covered by health insurance. Generally, child support orders are created according to a formula that uses the parents' incomes and parenting time to determine a fair support amount, but the court may deviate from this formula if a child's special needs necessitate a larger amount of financial support.

Creating a Trust Fund for your Children's Care

Many parents of children with special needs create trust funds to provide for their children later in life. By naming the trust as a beneficiary to your assets, you can ensure that your child receives the support he or she needs for medical expenses, transportation, and other needs after you pass away. Also, consider opening a life insurance policy to provide for your child after your death and seeking Social Security benefits for him or her.

Determining a Parenting Time Schedule and Parental Responsibilities

Parenting time and parental responsibility orders are made according to what the court determines to be in the child's best interests. For a child with special needs, the arrangement that is in his or her best interests can include living in a home that is accessible to his or her physical limitations, close access to school, therapy, and other resources utilized by the child, and a consistent routine.

The court uses a large list of factors to determine an appropriate parenting time arrangement, including the child's relationship with each parent and the other members of that parent's household, each parent's health and age, each parent's day-to-day involvement in the child's life, and each parent's financial capacity to provide for the child. The court has leeway to consider certain factors more heavily than others, and when a child has special needs, these needs are typically weighed heavily in determining the child's parenting plan.

Resources for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Parents of children with special needs often turn to local and national resources for help with determining appropriate parenting time schedules, working through the issues that come with raising a child with special needs, and planning for their families' futures. There are many resources available online for parents of children with special needs, many of which cater to specific populations, such as parents of children with autism and parents of children with spinal cord injuries.

Ask your lawyer about resources he or she knows about that can help you work through your divorce and adjust to life as a parent of a child with special needs in the years that follow.

Work with an Experienced Naperville Divorce Attorney

If you are a parent considering filing for divorce, work with an attorney who has specific experience handling divorces for parents of children with special needs. There are issues you will need to consider that other families do not. To discuss your case in more detail with an experienced Naperville divorce attorney, contact our team at Pesce Law Group, P.C. today to schedule your initial consultation with us.

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