Divorce and Your Special Needs Child

Navigating Divorce With a Special Needs Child

Approximately 20% of households in the United States have a child with a chronic illness, disability, or special health care requirements. Parents with a child who has special needs are at a higher risk of experiencing marital strain, which can lead to a divorce. If you are heading towards one, here are a few tips to help your special needs child during this stage.

Create a Parenting Plan

Many divorcing couples look for ways to make the transition easier for their child. A parenting plan is one way to accomplish that. With a plan, the parents can make sure their children’s needs are met, especially those who may require extra support. The goal of a parenting plan is to ensure the safety and security of your children. During and after a divorce, children should feel loved and supported by both parents.

Developing a parenting plan during a divorce can be complex, especially when a child has special needs. While all parents want to take care of their children during this time, additional factors must be considered when your child requires extra support. One area of contention can center around the child’s needs. If there is a disagreement, seek input from professionals who can evaluate the situation and provide recommendations for your child.

With a well-designed parenting plan, you can help reduce conflict with your ex-spouse, which will benefit all of your children. By minimizing disputes, you can focus on meeting your children’s needs and providing the care and attention they require during this challenging time. Additionally, a parenting plan can help establish routines and boundaries that promote stability and consistency, which is very important for children with special needs.

Consider All Your Children’s Needs

Every family dynamic is unique, and siblings within a family may have different needs from one another. Understanding and meeting these needs is crucial for fostering positive sibling relationships and promoting the well-being of each child. One important consideration is the nature of the sibling relationship. Depending on the situation, parents may need to take steps to help siblings work through any challenges and build stronger connections with one another.

Additionally, parents should consider whether one child requires more one-on-one time with the parents. By ensuring that every child receives the attention and support they need, you can help prevent feelings of neglect or resentment.

For families with a special needs child, there may be additional challenges. Siblings of special needs children may feel they need to take on a caretaking role for their sibling. Unfortunately, these issues can arise during a divorce as parents may struggle to manage the additional demands of single parenthood.

If you want your other children to avoid feeling like they have to act like a surrogate parent, it could be time to seek additional help and resources. You may want to seek support from outside sources for the special needs child. Parents may also need to communicate openly with their children about their needs and establish clear boundaries to prevent the siblings from feeling overwhelmed or overburdened.

Share Parenting Time

While siblings usually follow the same custody and visitation schedule, this may not be the best option for a child with special needs who may struggle with transitions. Sometimes, you may need to consider alternative arrangements that maintain a stable routine and structure. One option is called bird nesting. With that, the children stay in one home while the parents switch residences. This arrangement can provide stability and consistency for the child with special needs.

Alternatively, you may want the siblings to have different schedules to meet their needs. With any change, you will need to weigh the pros and cons of each option, choosing the one that is best for your family’s unique circumstances. Parents should strive to maintain positive relationships with one another and work collaboratively to ensure that the children’s needs are met to the best of their ability.

Think About Financial Concerns

Getting a divorce comes with plenty of challenges. When a couple decides to end their marriage, they must also untangle their financial ties. Separating finances can be complex and overwhelming, especially considering the costs of maintaining two separate households.

For many parents, the prospect of increased costs associated with divorce can be daunting. They worry about how they can afford the expenses of two separate homes and whether their reduced income will be sufficient to cover their needs. You will need to think about the following:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Child care
  • Education
  • Medical expenses
  • Clothing
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Transportation

The financial worries may be even more pressing if the child has special needs. The caregiver may have been unable to work outside the home, and the prospect of providing for the family on a reduced income can be overwhelming. This situation can create additional stress and anxiety.

You may want to work with your divorce lawyer or financial planner to determine how to address these increased expenses. In some cases, the parents both pay for the ongoing costs of the special needs child. Working with an attorney may also help you calculate your costs in the alimony settlement.

Plan for Long-term Needs

Providing for the special needs child’s future care and financial support should be a top priority in the marital settlement agreement and estate planning. Your child’s care needs may have to extend beyond the age of 18. Many people establish a special needs trust as part of their financial plan. This type of trust allows you to set aside funds for your child’s care while preserving their eligibility for public assistance and government benefits.

Along with a trust, your divorce lawyer may also advise you on other ways to provide for your child’s future, such as through a gifting plan or long-term care insurance. These options can help ensure that your child’s needs are met, even in the event of unexpected expenses or changes in circumstances.

Always Consider the Needs of Your Children

You need to consider all the available resources and support when planning for your child’s future after divorce. By working with your attorney, you can create a comprehensive plan that addresses your child’s unique needs and provides them with the care and support they require. Taking these steps can give peace of mind and security for both you and your child as you navigate this challenging time.

When you are divorcing and have a special needs child, there are plenty of things to consider for their care and needs. Reach out to the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco. Our experienced New Jersey legal team is here to assist you with any questions that you might have during this difficult time. If you are ready to schedule a consultation, call our office in Hackensack at (201) 343-0078 or visit our website and submit the contact form that you can find there.

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