By: Leslie Barrows
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Special Needs Children and Divorce
Divorce is challenging, especially on special needs children with a variety of mental and/or physical disabilities. Especially when a child has a mental disability, the process of, and the concept of divorce can cause more problems. For example, a child with autism may need additional love, support, and attention to make sure special needs children feel safe and secure.
Psychology Today: Divorce Cases Involving Children with Autism
Financial implications of divorcing with special needs children should be considered by parents and their divorce lawyers. When a family adjusts to a new living situation, a child with a physical disability might need new home aides and equipment. Child custody and support require additional care and attention when parents divorce and one or more children have special needs.
Although the Texas Family Law Code does define a list of factors to qualify a child as special needs or as having a disability, there are procedures a child custody lawyer can use to meet the needs of the family. Disabilities are conditions that impair someone’s movement, speech, daily function, and abilities to solve problems and make daily judgments.
Attorney Leslie Barrows is a divorce lawyer you can trust to negotiate and litigate for you and your children, so your family can accommodate special needs children during and after divorce. Call Leslie at the Barrows Firm in Southlake at (817) 481-1583.
How the Needs of a Child with Special Needs Can Change with Time
Approaching issues of care for special needs children during divorce is tricky. Depending on the age of a child with a range of mental and/or physical disabilities, it might be necessary to review the needs of the child as they grow and mature. When you can anticipate that the needs of a child may change and are unforeseeable, it is important to consider the unknown future of a child and how they adapt as they grow older.
At the Barrows Firm, Leslie and her team of talented trial lawyers know that the needs of children with mental, emotional, and physical limitations can change. The Barrows Firm attorneys prepare for change by using a strategy that structures agreements and their provisions to anticipate what may come.
The Special Needs Alliance offers an article with more thoughts about the challenges of divorce when you have a child with special needs: Divorce and Children with Special Needs.
Court-Ordered Child Support for Special Needs Children
Chapter 154 of the Texas Family Code is the provision of law regarding court-ordered support for a disabled child. The law covers adult children as well as minor children. Texas law states that a court may order either or both parents to provide for the support of the child for an indefinite period once the following criteria are met.
First, the court must make a finding that the child requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a mental or physical disability and that the child will not be capable of self-support. Second, the court must find that the disability, or cause thereof, existed or was known prior to the 18th birthday of the child.
If the Court-ordered support is for an adult child, the Court may designate a special needs trust to receive support to be paid directly to the trust for the benefit of the adult child with special needs. Note that this is not the same procedure are using the state disbursement unit.
Note that ordered child support can impact a child’s social security or disability claims if any. When these benefits are an issue, Attorney Leslie Barrows consults with other experienced lawyers who often specialize in these specific legal areas.
Forming a Special Needs Trust to Support Special Needs Children
If you and the other parent agree or are ordered to create a self-funded special needs trust, Attorney Leslie Barrows can create a special needs trust in accordance with applicable Texas probate code provisions as well as the U.S. federal code as it may apply.
A special needs trust also referred to as a supplemental needs trust, is a trust that holds property, often money, solely for the benefit of a person with a mental or physical disability, such as a special needs child. In a divorce involving a special/supplemental needs trust, the Court’s order should identify the details regarding each parent’s rights and duties regarding the trust, ensuring that the needs of the child and their best interests are met.
Conservatorship and Possession and Access to Special Needs Children in Divorce
Beginning with your temporary order hearing, the court will order or consider the agreement of the parties about who is going to live where and who will pay for what during the divorce. When your child has special needs, however, it can be more difficult to adjust.
Experienced divorce lawyers like Attorney Leslie Barrows will prepare you for child custody issues and the process through which you can make your case on why you should be the primary parent. It might be necessary to use a qualified expert to offer testimony about what a particular child might need for daily care, and how that care can best be given to the child.