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Custody and support considerations for special needs children

Rearing a child with special needs can be difficult for parents. It's not uncommon for them to feel guilt about their children's conditions, no matter how misplaced that guilt may be. Parents often blame themselves or their child's other parent for any disabilities. Many times, one parent (often the mother) bears the brunt of the extra care required for the disabled child.

It's not surprising that parents of special needs children have a higher divorce rate than other married couples. When these couples divorce, there are often additional complexities regarding child support and custody that need to be considered.

As with all custody cases, parents need to determine how physical and legal custody of their child (and other children) will be shared. Legal custody refers to who will make decisions for the kids regarding medical needs, education, religion and other important aspects of their lives. Even if one parent has full legal custody, the other parent, in most cases, should be kept informed of major decisions.

Physical custody in all cases must be decided based on the child's best interests. The parent who plays the greatest role in the children's care is often the best person with whom they should continue living.

That's particularly true for children who require special accessibility features in their home or who have regular medical appointments that are closer to one parent's residence than to the other's. The other parent, if awarded shared custody or visitation, may be required to make his or her home accessible as well.

Child support is particularly important when a child requires ongoing medical or psychiatric care, therapy, special education and/or professional in-home care. However, child support may need to continue past the point when the child is legally considered to be an adult.

Further, children's medical (and other) needs may change — and expenses may increase — over the years. Those with progressive conditions, for example, may need increasingly elaborate assistive aids over the years. There may be medical advances from which they could potentially benefit but that rare expensive. Thus, child support for disabled offspring may need to change periodically.

If you have children with special needs, it's essential to consider not just their current needs, but the needs they may have in the future, as you work out your child custody and support agreements. Your Florida family law attorney can help you with this.

Source: FindLaw, "Divorce With Special Needs Child, Legal Considerations," George Khoury, Esq., accessed Oct. 26, 2017

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Fax: 561-253-6353