A Better Divorce Option To Protect Special Needs Children
Going through the divorce process can be an arduous journey for spouses and children. Under the best of conditions, reaching an agreement and figuring out how to share rights, responsibilities, and parenting time is not easy.
Spouses must decide how they’re going to handle matters of physical custody, legal custody, financial arrangements, and parenting provisions until the child turns 18 years-old. Spouses should try to reach an agreement that anticipates as many issues as possible related to co-parenting to reduce the potential for arguments in the future. These include parenting time during the week, school breaks, holidays, transportation and parent exchanges as well as where the child will attend school, religious upbringing, and medical decisions. Spouses must also figure out how health insurance will be provided, who will pay for child care and extracurricular activities.
There are additional considerations when divorce involves a special needs child. Special needs children often require financial support and long-term solutions beyond the typical cut-off age of 18. And even though parents of special needs children hope for the best and that their children will be able to live on their own, they should plan for the worst.
Divorce agreements will need to consider some of the unique issues that arise when a special needs child transitions into adulthood. These include guardianship when the child turns 18, government and/or private agency benefits, long-term living assistance, special needs trusts, IEPs, and custodial care.
In addition, there are challenges that families of special needs children encounter as a result of divorce. According to Michael Ringel, CPA, during a divorce, it is critical that both parents are on the same page for the support of the child. “They need to keep the child in mind as they come up with ideas and strategies to help protect them so that in the future they will be able to qualify for government benefits like Medicaid and Social Security, and so that the agreement does not disqualify their child from those benefits.” 2
How Collaborative Divorce Can Help
The collaborative divorce process is uniquely suited for helping divorcing parents of special needs children. Only collaborative divorce allows for the creativity and flexibility needed to reach an agreement that provides for the complex future needs of the special needs family. 3
The collaborative law process takes place within a cooperative environment where divorcing parents work together with the help of a team of collaborative professionals to find creative ways to address the needs of their special needs children. In addition to the divorcing couple’s respective attorneys, the collaborative team may include financial experts, child specialists, and/or divorce coaches. In collaborative divorce, these financial experts, child specialists, divorce coaches are neutral parties who all work together with the divorcing parents to find solutions. Instead of battling in court over finances, a financial expert who specializes in long-term planning for special needs children could be engaged to assess the child’s current needs and how to pay for them as well as planning for future needs in the best interest of the child.
To learn more about collaborative divorce and whether it might be right for your family, contact our office at (919) 324-3503 and schedule a consultation.