We all know (and probably love) a child that does not have typical abilities, or who struggles with certain areas of life. These kids face challenges that typical children do not and as such have different needs. Working in the field of family law it is important to consider the specific needs of children that have special needs. In most instances, families with a special needs child will need a parenting plan that addresses that child’s special needs. They also may need an order of child support that is able to deal with the child’s special expenses. Here are 3 things parents with a special needs child may want to consider while facing a family law case involving that child:
- Special Expenses: Does your child have special needs that may cause additional expenses outside of the normal cost of raising a child? Perhaps this relates to their medical needs, their occupational therapy, or increased costs of retrofitting equipment or clothing. These additional expenses should be discussed with your family law attorney. RCW 26.19.075 allows the court to grant a deviation to the standard child support level for high expenses related to the special needs of a disabled child. RCW 26.19.075(1)(c)(iii).
- Parenting Plan: In addition to speaking with a family law attorney, unmarried or divorcing parents who are creating a parenting plan should consider speaking with someone who has expertise dealing with children with their child’s specific special needs. That expert may advise parents on the best way to help the child transition or thrive in a two-parent household. If the court is asked to rule on the residential schedule of a child, the court will consider the developmental level and emotional needs of the child. RCW 26.09.187
- Long-Term Financial Support: In some circumstances, a special needs child will continue to have special expenses after the child has reached adulthood. If you have a special needs child who is nearing adulthood, it is important to speak with your family law attorney about whether you may continue to collect child support from the other party if your adult child will continue to need care.
If you have a special needs child, it is important that you make your attorney aware of that child’s abilities and special needs and expenses they may have. Your family law attorney can advise you on the proper way to ensure that your order of child support and parenting plan address your child’s special needs. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this or any other family law issue with a Seattle family law attorney.