Considering how to care for children in a post-divorce setting is often a stressful and difficult task. If a child has special needs, many less-typical factors must be considered. Whether the child has a disability, diagnosed disorder, or another medical or social issue, a parenting plan and custody arrangement must be in the child’s best interests, and must be crafted in such a way that their needs continue to be met.

A parenting plan is required in all cases where children are involved. The parenting plan outlines each parent’s time sharing arrangements with the children, as well as other important items such as travel restrictions, child care instructions, and school designation. If a child has special needs, additional information and instructions for caring for that child should be outlined, in detail, in the parenting plan. For example, perhaps overnights with one parent may not be acceptable, or the child will need to be removed from school early to attend doctor’s appointments or counseling. If one parent has generally been the caregiver of the child with special needs throughout the marriage, it may be in that child’s best interests for that caregiving parent to have sole decision-making authority over that child’s medical needs. Regardless of the special needs of the child, if any specific instructions are required for that child’s care it should be outlined in the parenting plan.

Child support may be modified when a special needs child is involved. While child support is most often calculated pursuant to the Florida Child Support Guidelines, the number determined may not be sufficient depending on the care required and the severity of the child’s disability or disorder. For example, medical costs, therapists, doctors, medications, caregiver costs, or special education are some of the additional costs to consider for a child with special needs. A predetermined child support amount may not cover the needs of the child, especially if the child’s needs may increase as they grow older. In Florida, child support terminates at the age of majority or at a child’s graduation from high school. Often, however, a special needs child requires support past the age of majority, and specific language and guidance is needed in an agreement to ensure that the child receives support past the age of majority.

Your children are so important. If you are going through a divorce or paternity matter and your child has special needs, it is imperative that the future needs of the child are considered, as well as any needs of the caregiving parent. Kirkner Family Law Group is here to help you create the best possible plan for the future of you and your children. Contact us today or call (813) 254-0156 to discuss your needs.

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