Child custody is a challenging issue for most parents, but determining custody when the child has special needs is even more complex than usual. Raising a special needs child means more decisions must be made. A great deal of care and thought must be applied when considering custody arrangements, both by the parents and their attorneys.
Ways to Determine Custody of a Special Needs Child in Texas
The key thing to remember is that parents always have the right to work out an agreement without resorting to a court battle. In our opinion, parents of special needs children should do everything they can to reach such an agreement.
You as parents have a much deeper knowledge of your child’s needs than any judge. You can work with your lawyers to put your agreement into writing and file it with the court to make it official.
If you can’t agree, then a court proceeding will be required. You’ll need to present evidence showing how the child’s daily life is affected by the disability and why your preferred custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest.
If the dispute includes disagreements about what kinds of care your child needs, expert witnesses may be needed as well.
Think About Daily Care and the Importance of Routine When Discussing Custody
Shifting from a two-parent situation to a one-parent household will be a huge adjustment for your special needs child and both parents. When trying to work out a custody arrangement, consider these questions:
- What are the things your child needs both of your help with?
- Is there anything that one of you handles better than the other, perhaps because of your work schedules or experience?
- Which of you has more time to handle your child’s daily needs?
- Do you both have the same knowledge about your child’s condition(s) and treatment(s) or is one of you more familiar?
You’ll also want to keep in mind that having a familiar routine is often crucial for special needs children. As such, if one of you has been the primary caregiver during your marriage, it could be in your child’s best interest for that parent to have primary physical custody.
This can also affect other aspects of your divorce, such as who gets the house; keeping the child in the family home with the primary caregiver means the house should probably go to that parent.
Custody After the Special Needs Child Reaches Adulthood
If your child’s mental or physical disabilities will require you to care for them into adulthood, then your custody arrangement can account for that. You can negotiate language about how things will be handled once the child reaches the age of majority.
Courts can also issue orders, if necessary, to clarify the custody and access situation once the child grows up. If your child will never be able to live independently, then you could consider options such as creating a trust for the child, setting up a guardianship, and doing other, longer-term planning.
Financial Support for Special Needs Children and Custodial Parents
Families of children with special needs incur more expenses than average. You may be spending money on special education programs, disability-specific summer programs, general medical costs, special medical devices, and prescription medications.
Once you convert to two single-parent households, the parent who does not have primary custody will likely be required to pay child support to help the custodial parent
with necessary costs. Additionally, a decision will need to be made regarding which parent carries the child’s health insurance and how that gets paid for.
You’ll want to discuss the financial aspects of your post-divorce life with your attorney. Be honest, open and forthright in these talks, as well as with your ex, so you can eventually reach a point where you’re comfortable that your child’s needs will be met.
Reach Out to an Child Custody Attorney for Help
The Schneider Law Firm has significant experience representing parents of special needs children. Our compassionate attorneys would be happy to meet with you, hear what you’re facing, and create a plan for caring for your child.