Getting divorced is a highly stressful process, even under the best of circumstances. But when divorcing spouses are also the parents of a disabled child, there are several other issues that need to be considered as well. This makes the process even more trying, and it is important for those who are facing the situation to be prepared for some of the unique issues that will need to be dealt with.
If you are facing a divorce in Auburn, Alabama or any of the nearby communities, you need an experienced attorney by your side to provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. The Alsobrook Law Group has helped numerous clients through the divorce process, and we are ready to go to work for you. Call our office today at 334-737-3718 to schedule a free consultation.
Divorces for Couples with Special Needs Children in Auburn, AL
In Alabama, family courts prefer that both parents maintain an active role in the lives of their children after a divorce. Custody could be granted jointly to both parents, to only one parent, or both parents may be given joint legal custody (i.e., authority to make important decisions regarding the child) with only one parent receiving physical custody. This is all determined based on what the court believes is in the best interests of the child, and the court considers a number of factors in making this determination.
Even in cases when one parent receives sole physical custody, the other parent is usually given liberal visitation rights. Exceptions could be made of course if there is a history of abuse or other reasons to believe that granting visitation to the non-custodial parent would not be in the child’s best interests.
Child support in Alabama is determined using the “income shares” model. In a typical case, this would combine the incomes of the two parents and estimate the amount that an intact two-parent family would most likely spend on the child(ren). Then the amounts are split proportionately between the parents based on their incomes.
When the couple has a child with special needs, things are not always resolved in the same manner as with a traditional divorce case. Additional factors need to be considered in determining issues such as child custody, visitation, and child support, for example. These may include:
- The Child’s Ability to Travel: A typical child custody and visitation schedule could call for the child to have visitation time with the noncustodial parent on a weekly basis (often on weekends). This, however, may not be an ideal schedule for a child with special needs. Some special needs children are upset by frequent transitions, and it might work better to create a schedule that involves fewer visits that last for a longer period of time.
- Special Needs During Visitation: Parenting plans will need to be very detailed, and with each transition from one parent to the other, accommodations will have to be made for the child’s diet, medications, behavior management, adaptation to new surroundings, and similar issues. In some cases, one parent may not be aware of some of these issues, and they may need to be educated on what has to be done during each visit.
- Additional Medical Needs: A special needs child usually has ongoing medical needs that need to be addressed, such as medications, therapies, and doctor visits. Since health insurance does not always cover 100% of these expenses, child support may need to be modified in order to account for this.
- Special Educational Needs: There may be additional educational expenses as well, such as the cost of special schooling and/or home tutoring.
- Eligibility for Government Benefits: Many children with special needs receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid to help with expenses. Child support and alimony payments will need to be structured in a way that does not jeopardize the benefits the child is receiving. In some cases, it might make sense to set up a special needs (OBRA) trust to address this issue.
- Child Support Termination: In most cases, a parent’s obligation to pay child support ends when the child becomes an adult. This may not be true with a special needs child. With disabled children, the child support obligation may continue into adulthood.
Work with a Seasoned Auburn, AL Divorce Attorney
For divorcees with special needs children, there are numerous challenges that need to be dealt with. Each situation is unique, and you need a skilled advocate in your corner who understands these issues and is committed to looking out for your rights and interests and the best interests of your child(ren). In Auburn, Opelika, and the surrounding communities, contact Alsobrook Law Group today for assistance. Call our office at 334.737.3718 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.