In addition to needing patience and a whole lot of love, special needs children often require greater amounts of financial care than children who lack special needs. Whether it is physical or mental special needs, the key for your family is to be able to stay on budget while allowing your child to live to the best of their abilities. The last thing that you want to do is put your family in a situation where you have to constantly take from Peter to pay Paul so that your special needs child does not have to go without.
Going through a divorce or child custody case means that your previously two-income household is now down to one. However, that does not mean that your special needs child has half as many needs now that you have half the income that you used to. Rather, that budget needs to be tightened up and your spending in other areas may need to be examined closely to allow for your child to get what he needs consistently. The other component of this discussion during and after a family law case is making sure that child support reflects the circumstances of your family.
What help is out there for your child?
Whether you need to pay for special schooling, adaptive materials for at home, or medical care above and beyond what your health insurance pays for, a special needs child has costs that can quickly add up. Hopefully, you are in a position where you are aware of the programs offered through local, state, and federal government which may be available to help you sort through what your child needs now and in the future. For many families, government health insurance and programs form the backbone of the care for that child throughout the year.
Medicaid is frequently cited as an example of health insurance offered through the government which can assist you and your family in a time of need. Special needs children are covered under Medicaid who otherwise would not have the ability to get on a health insurance plan through either of their parent’s employers or through family plans purchased directly from a health insurance provider. Single mothers in Texas and their minor children have a leg up when it comes to qualifying and receiving Medicaid.
Another program offered through the federal government is Supplemental Security Income (SSI) which is offered through the Social Security Administration. On behalf of your child, you can apply for benefits based on the "Blue Book" listing of impairments for children. Some criteria can be met based on your child's experiences with a particular impairment as well as their ability to meet objective metrics as outlined in their Blue Book. Children can qualify for SSI despite never having worked or paid taxes towards Social Security.
In other circumstances, you may be able to help your child find a rehabilitation counselor or program that can help your child develop life skills and overcome mental and physical challenges that would otherwise cause your child to not be able to attend school or even work. Your child's school is a great resource to turn to if you have questions about what programs are available to you and what you may qualify for based on where you live and your income. This type of professional may take some degree of research to locate. Talk with your child's doctors, people you work with, friends from the neighborhood, and even people who go to church with you to find out who out there may be able to assist you in locating rehabilitation services and professionals who can help your child immensely.
Child support- changing or establishing child support for a special needs child
If your child has developed a special need since you were first in the family courts of Texas, then you are likely looking at a situation where your child is going to need to have their child support modified. The modification in your situation will need to be an increase. I cannot think of a situation where a special needs child would not need to have their child support increased. As your child ages and develops then his needs may change along with their body and mind. You need to keep track of costs and determine how much more child support you may need to make sure your child receives the care that he needs.
When we talk about changing a child support order, the term that is often used in the world of family is "modification." A modification seeks to change something about a court order based on a material change in circumstances since the last time you were in court. That material change in circumstances could have been experienced by you, your co-parent, or your child. Once you can establish that a material change in circumstances has occurred the next step would be to show that the proposed modification is in your child’s best interests. Check both boxes and you are on your way to being able to modify child support for your special needs child.
Many parents are shocked at the high hurdle that must be cleared to modify a child support order. It is not enough to show that a change has happened in the life of your child or that your child may be suffering from some symptoms that have recently made their condition worse. These changes must have developed since the last time you were in court, they must be significant, and they must have led to situations for your child that are harmful to their development. Not having enough money in the house to pay for essentials and your child's new medications would seem to fit the bill as far as a material and substantial change in circumstances is concerned. On the other hand, not having the money to pay for the same things you used to have during your marriage while caring for your special needs child may not be a material or substantial change in circumstances.
An experienced family law attorney can be a tremendous help to you and your family during this time. Rather than wondering if you know what a material and substantial change is, why not sit down with one of the experienced family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to find out what we have seen and experienced in our years of serving clients just like you? We have been in the thick of some contested modification cases on child support and we know what it takes to get your case from a dream to reality.
If the shoe is on the other foot and you are attempting to argue against a proposed modification, you cannot rest on your laurels and assume that the judge will deny the modification attempt only because the odds are against the petitioner in a case like this. You should be prepared to contest the modification with evidence that would stand to show that the material and substantial change did not come to be. On top of that, if you can also show that your child's best interests are not served by the proposed change(s) then you will truly be ahead of the game.
How can you think ahead about your child’s education in the years to come?
For a child with special needs, one of the first areas that your little one has likely experienced issues is in the classroom. School can be a supreme challenge for a child with special needs. For one, your child may have issues with their cognition to the point where simple assignments for most students turn out to be incredibly difficult for your little one. A special needs child can sit and try to do the work for hours but sometimes it just does not sink in. A student with learning differences like yours may stand to do better when in an environment that is more forgiving and flexible than in a classroom where your child is the only disabled student.
You and your co-parent should work side by side with your child’s school to determine whether an individualized educational program (IEP) is available for your little one. Whatever the specific issues that your child experiences in the classroom, the IEP can help your child whether his issues are physical or mental. What are the main difficulties that your child experiences in school? How can the school accommodate the needs of your child? What resources are available to your child while in school? What sort of limitations does your child have in moving about from class to class? These are the subjects that an IEP has so much to do with.
What about how your child is going to shift from being a student to (hopefully) being an adult? Most students in high school already have a good idea of what it takes to live independently and care for themselves. However, this may be a lesson that requires your child to be more attentive. Your child's teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, and others have had an opportunity to impart valuable life lessons on growing up and overcoming obstacles. The more knowledge you have the more confident you will become.
Where is your child going to live?
In a child custody case, one of the most common areas for parents to find a great amount of disagreement is over the subject of visitation and possession. Going from one home to two for your children during a divorce or child custody case means that your entire family is in a period of transition. This does not necessarily mean that the transition will take forever to complete but it does mean that your child is going to need to figure out coping skills and learn how to adjust to changing circumstances at home.
This can be an especially difficult lesson for your special needs child to learn given that he or she has likely seen your house as their safe place and as a port in the storm. Now that the divorce is underway their safe place may not be so safe anymore. Take the daily routines of your child, for instance. You and your family may have relied upon these routines to make sure that your child can eat, sleep, receive medicine, and otherwise care for themselves to the greatest extent possible. When you can control external factors in the life of your child then taking care of him or her becomes simpler. When your life is out of whack, and you feel like there is nothing you can do to slow the course of your life down then this is when children begin to suffer issues during a divorce.
You should begin to think about the specific help that your child receives at home and what you and your child's other parent can do to best ensure that there are no issues that arise when it comes to your child's ability to continue to receive that care. Sometimes children receive care from a home health aide or caregiver. What can you and your child's other parent do to help your child continue to receive care despite logistical issues? Will your child be receiving care at both of your homes or will care be limited to just one home? What can you afford to do? These are questions that will likely inform your decision of whether to proceed with a child support modification.
Another issue that may arise concerning your child with special needs is whether the non-custodial parent can have visitation periods that are in line with the standard possession order. For example, your child may not be able to tolerate an entire weekend out of their routine and in the home of your child's other parent. For this reason, you and your co-parent may need to discuss alternative plans and options for your child when it comes to being able to help him or her build a relationship with both of their parents while receiving the care that he or she needs to live their best life.
If you have not figured this out by now, you and your child's other parent are going to need to be able to work together to solve issues related to visitation and possession. It will not be enough to simply pay lip service to the idea of co-parenting. Rather, the two of you will need to seriously put into action all your skills related to parenting your child together. This may mean putting aside your ego in favor of doing what is best for your child. This does not mean that you should overlook purposeful bad actions by your child's other parent. However, it may mean assuming the best of the other person and working with him or her to the greatest extent possible when it comes to overcoming whatever obstacles are in your way during their divorce or child custody case.
If you are in a situation where it is going to be difficult to create a parenting plan or custody schedule that can conform to the needs of your child, then you should certainly reach out to an experienced family law attorney. We can utilize our experience in working with clients in difficult circumstances like yours to help you identify the specific needs of your child and think of solutions related to those needs. We have already seen that working alongside professionals in the field of childhood disability can be essential. If you and your child's other parent can put your minds together then you may be able to accomplish great things when it comes to finding the right resources for your family at this time.
What are you doing for your child as far as estate planning is concerned?
The last part of this discussion that we wanted to touch on with you before we wrap up today’s blog post relates to another important area of the law- estate planning. Your special needs child relies upon you and your co-parent more than the average child relies upon their mom and dad. While you are always happy to fulfill your obligation to your child that does not mean that you will always be available to your child, unfortunately. If something happens to you- an accident, an illness, etc.- what is your plan for caring for your child?
This is where estate planning comes into play. Fortunately for you, the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are here to help you in whatever area of the law you need assistance in when it comes to your special needs child. Whether you are stumped by a family law issue related to child support or need a different perspective when it comes to your will creation, our attorneys and staff are here to help you.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Child Support Modification in Texas (Part 1)
- What do I do if I have overpaid child support in Texas?
- Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
- Examining the newest Texas law on child support enforcement
- New Texas child support law seeks to hold impaired drivers accountable
- What Kind of Support Does a Guardian Provide in a Family?
- Child Support Modifications: Adapting to Economic Shifts and Life Changes
- Clearing up rumors about child support in Texas
- How Can a Father Stop Paying Child Support In Texas?
- How Often Is Child Support Reviewed In Texas?
- Can a Child Sue a Parent For Back Child Support In Texas?
- Will You Go To Jail For Back Child Support In Texas?
- What Is The Bare Minimum For Child Support In Texas?
- What To Expect At a Child Support Review Hearing In Texas
- What Is Used To Determine Child Support In Texas?
- Navigating Child Support Modifications: A Comprehensive Guide