Family law complications for couples with special-needs children
Although each couple is different, there are a number of common stressors that can put strain on a marriage. Infidelity is an obvious example. But couples may also find that their relationship can be strained by things such as unemployment, financial difficulties and health problems. Whether any of these stressors will lead to divorce largely depends on the couple experiencing them.
Having children with special needs can also be a huge source of stress, but it doesn’t necessarily make couples more likely to divorce. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, we’ll use autism spectrum disorder as an example. Despite a common media narrative that parents of children with ASD are at a greater risk for divorce, studies have found that this just isn’t true.
That being said, certain aspects of divorce may be more complicated if the couple has a child with ASD or other special needs. The parenting plan and child support agreements are likely to be more complicated than they would be for children who develop typically.
The parenting plan, for instance, may need to account for the fact that some children with ASD have a very difficult time adapting to change and could also suffer separation issues. As such, a parenting plan may need to be crafted around these important issues, perhaps with the help of a family therapist who has already worked with the child.
Child support is another issue that can become more complex with a special needs child. It tends to cost more money to raise a child living with mental or physical impairments, and these costs will likely need to be itemized in order to more appropriately calculate the amount of child support to be paid. Some couples may also wish to set up a special needs trust if their child will need financial support for the rest of his or her life.
Parents of special needs children may not be more likely to divorce than other couples are. But if they do, their divorce is likely to be more complicated. As such, they should seek the help of an experienced attorney who knows how to handle complex parenting plans and child support issues.
Source: The Huffington Post, “When Parents of a Child With Autism Divorce: Separating Myth From Reality,” Bari Zell Weinberger, April 4, 2014