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Minimizing the negative impact of a divorce on special needs kids

Attempting to minimize the impact of a divorce on your children is a goal that many parents have at the beginning of a divorce. We here horror stories about how divorce can impact our children and we want to do everything we can to get the divorce taken care of but have it leave as little of an impact on our kids as possible. I think this is a parental instinct that many of us have not only in regard to a divorce but for any unpleasant scenario. One needs only to think about the coronavirus pandemic in the links that some parents, including myself, would go towards helping our kids live a normal life despite the turmoil going on around us. Some of us are able to do a better job than others in some kids are able to avoid the negative impacts of a divorce for the most part. 

I will start off by saying that I think it is a good goal for parents to try to keep their children's lives as consistent and stable as possible despite the divorce. There is no doubt in my mind that a divorce has negative consequences for most children but that those negative consequences can be alleviated overtime and severely diminished by parents working together to coordinate their efforts with their children. These efforts should begin at the beginning of the divorce and should basically never stop after that. You may think that you are divorcing your spouse but in actuality you are gaining a co-parent. 

The term co-parent is one that we hear with a great deal of regularity in our lives as family law attorneys. Co-parenting is a term that maybe did not exist 20 or 30 years ago but is now a term we hear used quite a bit when discussing two parents and separate households raising children together. Ideally, it is with a shared vision and focus that parents who may not agree on much agree to put aside their differences and raised children together as a team. I can think of no other situation that demands co-parenting more closely then with a special needs child. 

Depending on the specific circumstances of your special needs child in their life you may find that your child is more able to adapt their life to moving in separate households from each parent. For example, if your child has an emotional or psychological special need where he or she is not able to process emotions in observe changes in people's readily than the divorce may not impact your child as much as some of his brothers or sisters. On the other hand, if your child has a physical special need where he or she is unable to travel or adjust to changes in their surroundings very easily then the divorce may have especially impacted this child. 

On the whole, I think that special needs children deserve focus and attention during a divorce case. It is easy to lose track of specific circumstances within a divorce and instead focus on one or two different areas that may impact your life. Keep in mind, however, that by focusing on issues not related to your special needs child attention that is diverted from him or her can cause great disruptions in their life. If stability and consistency are important to you in parenting your child than this should be the singular focus of your case. Other areas of your case may suffer but one area that you do not want to see impacted in a negative light is your child's well-being. 

What sort of impact could your special needs child have on your divorce? 

If you are parenting a special needs child, then you need to be aware that the impact of your specially child on the divorce could be profound. For example, if you are special needs child requires regular medical intervention then you and your spouse need to figure out how to not only provide your child with health insurance but also divide up the costs of help coverage that is not taken into consideration by insurance. 

Medications that are not covered by insurance, procedures or exams by doctors that are over and above what coverage does allow for will need to be divided up in some way by you and your spouse. Typically, parents will divide medical costs for the children between the two of them in a pretty even fashion. However, if the costs for your special needs child are higher than for most children you all may need to determine a better proportion to split those costs based on your income's inability to pay.

This discussion bypasses the question of ensuring that your child has health insurance coverage. Finding the right plan for you and your family has probably been a huge concern of yours over the course of the past few years. As such, you will want to make sure that not only is your health coverage in place and covering the procedures, treatments and medications that your child needs but you need to have it laid out in your final decree of divorce how the costs of health insurance are going to be spread out between you and your ex-spouse. 

Typically, one parent or the other will bear the cost of providing health insurance for the child. The other parent will be responsible for either paying for the health insurance directly or reimbursing the cost of health insurance to the other parent. If you are the parent who pays child support and also are responsible for providing health insurance through your employer or through a privately sought-after plan then you will need to take that into consideration when negotiating your final decree of divorce. 

In the event that neither you nor your ex-spouse have the ability to pay for health insurance directly then it will be necessary for you all to get your child on some kind of government sponsored plan like Medicaid. The state of Texas will require that whichever parent is paying child support will also pay the State back for cost associated with covering that child. It is better to have your child on private health insurance, most likely, because those plans tend to cover more treatment and allow for greater flexibility in caring for your special needs child. 

The last thing you want to experience is a disruption in health insurance coverage for your child this is one of those areas where the negative impact of a divorce can be felt there is some kind of transition between you're paying for health insurance and then your child having to get on a plan provided by your ex-spouse. You will want to walk through the Transition with your ex-spouse as well as the health insurance providers to make sure there is no disruption to the treatment that your child receives. I am thinking about a scenario where your child gets some sort of behavioral or occupational therapy and for some reason that treatment would have to be delayed or postponed because of problems dealing with insurance. it is up to you and your spouse to ensure that no disruptions or minimal disruptions are had despite the circumstances of your divorce. 

Custody and possession impact in regard to divorce and a special needs child 

In regard to being able to spend time with your special needs child after a divorce as well as be able to make decisions on their behalf we need to be aware that children are often stuck in between parents when it comes to their not agreeing on how possession is to be divided. You should consider the specific needs of your child in conjunction with their need to also be able to spend time with both parents. Do not let your own views on divorce or what should be the case with possession to take precedence over what is in the best interest of your child. If your child is unable to travel or change possession frequently between you and your ex-spouse, then you should consider this when you are negotiating on possession. Not every child is going to be able to be as flexible as others when it comes to moving about between two houses. 

In this regard, it is especially important that you and your spouse be able to negotiate through this subject rather than put your case before a judge. I say this because a judge will be bound by a standard possession order in the norms of custody and Visitation in Texas. Whereas, we typically see parents in family law cases be able to negotiate more flexible and more appropriate Visitation in possession schedules together compared to a judge. After all, nobody knows your family better than you and your spouse do. You should understand that nobody knows your child like you do and that you are better suited than anyone to make decisions as to what is or is not in their best interest. 

When it comes to determining rights and duties to a child in your divorce we are talking about the concept of conservatorships. Conservatorships means that you are responsible for the care and well-being of a child until that child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. However, you may find that conservatorships rights need to be extended for you and your ex-spouse even after your child reaches the normal age of majority. You should speak to your family law attorney about including language in your final decree of divorce to reflect the fact that you all may need to take conservatorships over your child if he or she is unable to take care of themselves properly after the age of 18. 

Otherwise, when I think of conservative shipwrights, I typically think of medical and educational decisions that will need to be made for your child. For most kids this means the occasional doctor's visit or surgery and then whether or not to place your child in advanced or remedial classes depending on their specific situations. However, a special needs child may demand that you and your spouse take a lot more forceful rule in their educational and medical lives. 

Parents typically split the rights to make decisions in these areas between themselves in a fairly even fashion after a divorce. Under normal joint managing conservatorship both parents will need to confer with one another before decisions can be made in regard to education and medical treatment. However, you all may find that either you or your ex-spouse are in a better position to make decisions on behalf of your child based on their close proximity to your child and their superior knowledge and what is best for your child's well-being. It can take a lot of maturity to defer to your ex-spouse when it comes to decision-making for your child but this may be what it takes for your child to be in the best position possible. I would not punt any rights or duties in relation to your child where you need not to do this, but I would also speak to your family law attorney about what they recommend for you in your specific circumstances. 

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

Thank you for your interest in our blog and in our law practice. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan takes a great deal of pride in serving our communities and you can find our attorneys in the family law courts of Southeast Texas every day. We balance our years of courtroom experience with empathy and a keen eye for detail in representing our clients and the needs of their families. Please call us today in order to schedule a free of charge consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys. We offer free of charge consultations by phone, in person and via video. We are here to serve you and our community. 


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