Special Needs Children and Divorce in Texas

Navigating a divorce in Texas can feel overwhelming. You’re not just ending a marriage; you’re starting a new chapter of your life. Stepping into the role of a single adult might be an entirely new experience for you. This phase can be both exciting and daunting. You may wonder if you’re making wise decisions for your future. There are numerous factors to consider.

Divorce becomes even more challenging when you have a child with special needs. You undoubtedly love your child immensely and recognize the unique challenges ahead. You and your spouse must find ways to ensure your child’s well-being now and later. During a divorce, it’s easy to focus on your own interests. Yet, it’s vital to prioritize your child’s needs.

You are your child’s primary advocate. You are responsible for providing everything your child requires. Whether you can meet this responsibility might be uncertain. With so much uncertainty surrounding your divorce, it can be hard to focus. When your child’s needs demand your attention, consider hiring a skilled attorney. Choose someone who knows the law and understands your family’s and your child’s specific needs.

At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we guide you in supporting your special needs child during a divorce. A child’s impact on a divorce case extends beyond immediate needs, affecting financial, relational, and emotional aspects. Your child’s needs are our priority. Contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan ensures your child’s interests are meticulously addressed.

We offer free consultations with our seasoned family law attorneys six days a week—face-to-face, over the phone, or via video. These consultations help you set clear goals for your special needs child. After meeting with one of our attorneys, you’ll gain clarity on your case and identify opportunities to benefit your child during the divorce. Here are some key points to consider as you navigate a divorce in Texas.

The best interests of your child 

The best interest of the child is a legal standard used across our country to guide courts toward making decisions on behalf of children. The law presumes that you as a parent make decisions on behalf of your child. The court will also strive to make decisions in the best interests of your child based on their physical, emotional, and social needs. Ensuring their safety, access to health care, and things of this nature are the sort of factors that weigh on a court when making decisions on behalf of your child. 

This is no different for a special needs child like your own. When parents cannot agree on what is in the best interests of their child then that is a typical reason for moving towards a divorce. There are so many issues at play when it comes to raising a special needs child. Not being able to agree on all those issues is nothing out of the ordinary. However, what may come as a surprise is that you and your spouse may be able to reach conclusions and settlements on how to raise your child more easily in a divorce than in your marriage. 

My basis for saying this is that deadlines tend to spur action. When you know that you have a case upcoming, mediation, hearings, and a trial then there are definite deadlines for you to bear in mind as you are trying to come together on these issues. It is not definite that you will have a trial or temporary orders hearing. However, if you are not able to successfully settle your case then you can certainly look forward to facing these outcomes. 

The best way to avoid going to court is to settle your case. The only way to settle your case is to communicate with your co-parent about whatever issues you are facing concerning your child. This can be accomplished before the case begins by being truthful with one another. The last thing you want to do is to spring a divorce petition upon your spouse when he is least suspecting it. That kind of surprise can theoretically disrupt the parenting relationship as well as the day-to-day life of your child. The transportation, care, and living arrangements of your child may depend upon both of you being in the home. 

Rather than trying to catch your spouse off guard with a divorce, it is a better idea to talk to him first. Discuss the problems in your marriage and you may be able to avoid the divorce altogether. Counseling is an option to pursue if you have not already done so. Many spouses have no idea just how much the stress, anxiety, and challenges associated with raising a special needs child can affect a relationship. To the extent that you have not tried to attend counseling, I would certainly recommend it. Learning improved communication skills is what spouses get out of counseling. It is not a situation where the two of you are going to a counselor so that he or she can play referee on your fights or arguments. 

The best interests of your child require you and your spouse to work together to try and resolve your issues amicably. There may be circumstances, emotions, and other issues that are so ingrained into the fiber of your marriage that the two of you are unable to resolve your issues together. When you come to that realization it is appropriate to consider a divorce. With the challenges of raising a special needs child at the forefront of your mind remember to try and discuss the divorce with your spouse before filing. 

This way you can coordinate care, remove some of the negative emotions of the experience, and better prepare one another for what you are about to go through. A surprise divorce filing can put a sour taste in the mouth of your spouse. Imagine trying to negotiate a divorce with a person that you just upset in this way. I appreciate that there are some circumstances in which it is not feasible to discuss the divorce with your spouse before filing. In a case where family violence is an issue then it is not in your son’s best interest to expose you or him to violence. However, in most divorce scenarios you would be well served to try and discuss the case with your spouse before filing. 

What are issues that are especially important to special needs children in divorce?

In a divorce, your primary focus must be on your child’s needs, especially if they have special needs. Depending on the severity of their needs and your resources, you and your spouse may face unique challenges. It’s best to discuss how to handle the case from your child’s perspective before the divorce begins.

For a child with special needs, maintaining strong family relationships is vital. Regular interaction with family members in a stable environment is crucial. However, the unpredictability of divorce can disrupt the consistent care your child requires.

To bridge this gap, ensure that your child’s connections with family remain strong throughout the divorce. Make it possible for your child to see extended family frequently. If you have other children without special needs, keep them close to your special needs child. Avoid separating them during visitation unless absolutely necessary.

Texas law assumes it’s in your child’s best interests to maintain relationships with both parents. The court will expect both you and your spouse to spend quality time with your child. This holds especially true if both of you have been involved in caregiving over time. While your spouse may not have your level of experience in caring for your child, you should recognize these differences without cutting out visitation time.

The divorce process should allow you and your spouse to plan how to adapt your homes for solo visitation. While you are accustomed to co-parenting, managing alone, particularly with a special needs child, requires careful consideration and planning.

What are the health needs of your child and how will your divorce address those needs?

In some divorce cases, health insurance and medical care for a child will not rank very high on the list of top priorities. However, in a divorce case like yours which involves a special needs child that is not the case. Here, the medical needs of your child are going to be vitally important to how you negotiate the case. On top of that, ensuring that your child is going to have the opportunity to see the doctors or therapists that he needs will also be very important. Having a focus on these subjects needs to be a priority from the very beginning of your divorce. 

The state of Texas requires that you and your spouse account for health insurance for your child. This means that when your case is over with your child will need to be covered by health insurance of some kind. This health insurance may be provided by you, your spouse, or the state of Texas. Medicaid is available for children through the state but then the parent who pays child support will need to reimburse the state for that coverage. During the divorce case itself, your child’s health insurance cannot be disturbed. 

You should be sure that the divorce will not do anything to disrupt the continuous coverage of your child under their health insurance plan. You can talk to your health insurance provider to make sure that there are no issues when it comes to divorce. Planning when it comes to health insurance is critical. The last thing you want to do is to find out that some decision you made with health insurance is going to put your child in a position where his medication is not available, for example. 

What does visitation look like for you during and after the divorce?

One of the most significant transition areas for you, your spouse, and your child will be the ability to have regular visitation with your child. Children are creatures of habit. They rely upon regular, consistent communication and quality time with their parents. If you and your spouse accomplish nothing else in your divorce, then you should set out to make sure that your child can have an ongoing relationship with both parents from here forward.

That will mean being able to coordinate how to transport your child to and from each of your homes. Depending upon the needs of your child you could be in a position where there is a specific vehicle that needs to be purchased to make this easier. Both of you will need to commit to taking the necessary time to get your child ready for these visitation sessions. Over time doing so will probably become easier but for now, it will be a challenge. Focus on doing what is best for your child during these periods of transition. 

If your child can understand the issues at hand, then guide him through this period in his life. Prepare a simple calendar that includes important dates, times, locations, and other information about visitation periods. Your child can begin to look to these dates when planning their week and month. It will also help you to see how their visitation schedule can function alongside medical appointments and their school schedule. 

Sharing medical costs and deciding on child support

The child support guidelines in the Texas Family Code may not suit your family’s needs, especially if you have a child with special needs. These standard amounts often fail to cover the specific needs and best interests of your child. Whether you’re receiving or paying child support, you must develop a strategic plan for negotiating with your co-parent. The more realistic, fair, detailed, and thoughtful you are, the better you can communicate your perspective effectively.

Another important factor to consider is that your child might need support beyond their 18th birthday or high school graduation. Discuss with your spouse, consult your child’s doctor, and deeply consider how your child’s ongoing needs could affect the amount and duration of child support in your divorce. Being intentional improves the likelihood of a favorable outcome for everyone, particularly your special needs child.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case. 

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  10. How Should Divorce, Child Support, And Custody Be Handled For Parents Of Special Needs Children?

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At the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, the firm wants to get to know your case before they commit to work with you. They offer all potential clients a no-obligation, free consultation where you can discuss your case under the client-attorney privilege. This means that everything you say will be kept private and the firm will respectfully advise you at no charge. You can learn more about Texas divorce law and get a good idea of how you want to proceed with your case.

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