Child custody cases can be emotional, stressful, and complex. This is especially true, and often more extreme, if your child custody case involves children with special needs. When a child has special needs, such a physical, cognitive, or emotional disability that requires extensive care or supervision, there are additional considerations that need to be address in your child custody case.
It is important to have an attorney who understands the complexities of handling a custody case involving special needs children. Standard custody orders often will not be sufficient if your case involves a child with special needs.
The child custody attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth are here to ensure that you receive a parenting plan that is customized for your child’s and family’s needs.
Possession schedules in special needs custody cases need to consider the needs of your child and the abilities of each parent. If both parents are highly involved, then sharing equal possession may be an option.
Depending on your child’s needs, you may want to prioritize frequent interaction with each parent that requires numerous exchanges of possession each week, or you may need a more structured schedule that limits transition.
If there are concerns that the other parent is not able to manage and care for a child’s special needs, then shorter and non-standard possession may be appropriate. This could include no overnight possession or deviated from extended periods, such as 30 days in the summer that a non-primary parent would receive under the standard possession schedule.
Ensuring that your child’s current and future needs are met is a priority in child custody cases involving children with special needs. The expenses associated with those needs can be overwhelming and require support beyond statutory guidelines.
Child support in special needs cases often exceeds standard guideline child support1 due standard guidelines not accounting for the expense of special needs children. On top of standard child support the expenses associates with treatment, care, and supervision for your child’s special needs can be split between the parents as additional child support.
In Texas, these child support orders can continue past the age of 18 and even indefinitely if your child has a significant mental or physical disability that will impair their ability to earn a living and this disability existed before they became an adult.
When it comes to child support, special consideration needs to be given to ensuring that benefits are maximized for your child and family, such working in conjunction with a probate attorney to establish a Special Needs Trust and drafting orders to specifically address how child support is paid and disbursed. Qualification for certain aid programs, such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, can be adversely impacted and sometimes disqualified if child support for a special needs child is not addressed properly in your orders and ends up being considered income of the parent or child. Working with a child custody attorney who understands what they are doing is crucial for protecting your financial future.
Addressing major decision making, such as educational choices, psychiatric treatment, or invasive medical procedures, is an important consideration for families with special needs children as it is more likely that these decisions will need to be made.
Choosing to require an agreement by both parents for these decisions can be appropriate when both parents are knowledgeable about their child’s needs and committed to seeking treatment for their child.
Handling these decisions by agreement may not always work though. If parents disagree on what is best for their child it may be appropriate to provide a method for resolving conflict that does not involve returning to court each time, such as through consulting with the child’s providers or having he parents meet with a family counselor to work through their disagreements.
An unfortunate occurrence arises when one parent is in denial of their child’s special needs. In these circumstances it may be appropriate for one parent to have exclusive rights on major decisions. In addition to decision making, you may need specific orders to address the parent’s denial, such as requiring administration of medication during possession and prohibiting activities that could place your child in harm’s way.