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Providing for a special needs child in a divorce

Raising a child is challenging under the best of circumstances, and those challenges only increase if you have a child with special needs. Even when both parents do their best to love and support that child, it could put an incredible amount of strain on the marital relationship.

You and your soon-to-be former spouse may determine that the best decision for everyone would be to divorce. Removing that strain could actually make each of you a better parent. Your marital relationship may end, but each of you may want to remain as involved in your child's life as possible. This makes reaching a custody agreement and devising a parenting plan vitally important. However, unlike other parents, your plan needs to account for the special needs of your child.

Consider the following factors in your parenting plan

Of course, you will need to include all of the common additions to a parenting plan, such as a schedule for parenting time that includes holidays, birthdays and other important events in your and your child's lives. However, you may need to pay considerable attention to the following additional provisions:

  • The proper medical care may be crucial to your child living as normal a life as possible. This could include a special diet, physical therapy and other medical intervention. Each parent needs to agree to adhere to the dietary requirements of the child, if any. You will also need to determine whether decisions regarding medical and medical-related issues remain a joint decision or fall to one parent.
  • You may want to include an agreement that each parent will ensure attendance at appointments regardless of which parent the child is with at the scheduled time.
  • Including a provision regarding payment of out-of-pocket medical and medical-related expenses and health insurance coverage may also be wise.
  • You may stipulate that neither parent will entertain overnight guests during visitation. An exception would be remarriage.
  • Each parent would approve outside caretakers the other may use.
  • You could stipulate that neither parent will drink, smoke or use drugs around the child if that is a concern.
  • Stipulate whether one or both of you make educational decisions for your child.
  • Child support may also need to continue long after other parents would no longer pay due to your child's special needs.
  • Your agreement may also include a method for resolving disagreements between you and the other parent. Accounting for as many contingencies as possible can provide you with an agreement that lasts for years to come.

You may also decide to consider creating a special needs trust for your child, to which both parents would be required to contribute. The possibilities are endless as long as they don't violate public policy or current law.

Consider getting the support you need

Having support in your decision-making is crucial. Whether you need help covering all of the bases or making sure that your agreement meets all of the applicable legal requirements, having experienced family law help could make the process easier.

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