Special Needs Children: Custody & Support

Special Needs Children: Custody & Support


Divorce is an emotionally and physically strenuous experience for both parents and children. The challenges become even greater when the parents are raising a child with special needs. Many more considerations must go into determining what is in the best interests of the child, which is the guiding principle in determining any child custody and visitation matter in Texas.

The Law Office of Ellen Schutz offers extensive experience helping parents throughout North Texas through the myriad issues in divorce. Ellen handles each case involving special needs children and divorce in its own way — adapting her strategies to meet the unique needs of the child and parents.

Questions about protecting your child through custody and support determinations? Call 214-340-8515.

Co-Parenting Special Needs Children
Depending on the extent of physical, emotional or mental disabilities, raising a special needs child often takes the collaboration of many people — parents, grandparents, other family members, doctors, psychiatrists, physical and occupational therapists, teachers and many others. It is important for divorcing parents to recognize that while their marriage is ending, their role as co-parents will continue long after the divorce is finalized. And, while divorce is difficult on all children, it can be even more traumatic for children with special needs, particularly those having difficulty with transitions or changes in routine. It is important for parents to put differences aside and work toward a child custody and visitation plan that puts the child’s needs and best interests first.

  • Often, child custody arrangements involving special needs children must take into consideration issues such as:
  • Whether each parent will have a home that accommodates the child’s special needs (such as wheelchair accessibility when relevant)
  • Whether one parent is in denial regarding the child’s condition and may withhold important medications
  • Whether the child can adapt to having more than one residence
  • Whether the work schedules of either parent conflicts with his or her ability to accommodate the child’s medical or therapy schedule
  • Many other considerations

The extent of the child’s special needs will heavily dictate the many issues that should be taken into consideration when developing a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child.

Adapting Child Support for Special Needs Children
In Texas, child support guidelines are followed to determine the amount of child support. However, with most special needs children, the statutory formula will never fully suit the needs of the child or the parent primarily responsible for caring for the child. Deviations from the child support guidelines are therefore not uncommon in cases involving special needs children. It is critical that the child support arrangement take into consideration matters such as:

  • Out-of-pocket expenses for ongoing therapies, such as physical therapy or speech therapy
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for necessary counseling
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for necessary short-term or long-term institutionalization
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for surgeries, ongoing treatments or other medical expenses
  • Out-of-pocket expenses for tutors
  • Tuition at a specialized school
  • Tuition at specialized summer camps or other extracurricular activities
  • Other expenses unique to raising a special needs child

Spousal support/alimony obligations and property division awards may also be affected when there is a divorce between parents raising a child with special needs. It is also important to realize that unlike other child support orders, when there is a special needs child involved, child support for that child may not necessarily terminate when the special needs child graduates high school or reaches the age of 18.

As a lawyer with vast legal, medical and financial knowledge, Ellen Schutz has understanding of the many issues family may face in their future when raising a special needs child. She recognizes the importance of bringing these issues forward when child support for a special needs child is being established or modified.

Phone Consultations
Please contact The Law Office of Ellen Schutz today to discuss your legal issue. The law firm provides phone consultations at 214-340-8515, or you can send an e-mail. Se habla español. The firm is centrally located in Dallas.