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Special needs children could have an impact on alimony

Have you been thinking about divorce in the past few months? If so, you aren't alone. My unscientific analysis of divorce during the era of COVID-19 is that many people have been sitting at home with not much to do and thinking about how to get a divorce. I think the busy nature of our lives maybe helped shield us from intrusive thoughts regarding the need for a divorce but now that we have less to do and fewer places to go we were thinking more and more about our relationships and about how a divorce may be coming for our family whether we like it or not. 

There are two things that you can choose to do with these thoughts. The first would be to internalize them and push them to the corner of your life so that they do not come up for some time again. Or, you can begin to take them into consideration and move towards the planning stage of a divorce. The first step in the planning of a divorce is to make a determination about whether or not your marriage is salvageable and whether or not that is a step you wish to take as far as attending counseling or attempting reconciliation with your spouse. 

Only you know your specific family dynamics well enough to determine what is appropriate for you and your spouse. It does not take two to tango in a divorce. If you want to get a divorce and your spouse does not want to divorce you can still get divorced. However, I would caution you to think thoroughly through the issue and if you have determined a divorce is necessary then you should begin to interview and speak to family law attorneys that may be able to help you navigate your case. 

I use the term “your case” for a reason. Your divorce case is different than your neighbors divorce or your cousins divorce. No other family has specific problems, challenges, adversities and familial makeup as yours. As such, the issues that you and your spouse face in your divorce will be completely unique to you and your family. While many families may be going through financial hardships right now, none of those financial hardships are created exactly equal. While some families in Texas may have special needs children no special needs child is as unique as yours. I could make an analogy to a snowflake here, but I think that may be a bit trite.

Since your divorce is unique to you and your spouse the challenges in preparation to overcome those challenges must also be unique. You cannot rely upon the experience of a family member or friend, no matter how close they are to you, when it comes to getting ready for your divorce. You need to be able to share specific information with someone who has been through the process many times in order to develop case strategies and act intentionally when implementing them. That is where working with an experienced family law attorney comes into play. When it comes time for you to act on your motivation to get divorced, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to have an attorney by your side. Would you try to climb Mount Everest without help? You would absolutely not try doing that, I am fairly sure.

While getting a divorce in Texas may not be exactly as difficult as climbing the world's tallest mountain, It can present challenges of its own. As such, do not consider getting a divorce without the assistance of a family law attorney. Add into the equation problems that your family has with finances and the special needs of your children and that lesson is twice as true now for your family that it would be for most others. 

The intersection of your family's financial needs with the needs of your special needs child is what I would like to discuss with you today in our blog post. Going through a divorce can put a strain on any family's finances. You may be in a position where you have not worked for many years enter now facing the reality of living life without the financial assistance and contribution of your spouse. How can you manage to go back to school and finish the degree mall being a single parent? What are the costs associated with hiring someone to help you find a job? Is it even worth looking for a job in this economy? These are all relevant questions for you to ask. 

From the perspective of your special needs child, what do you need to do to prepare for raising a special needs child on your own without the everyday assistance of your spouse? Are there special aspects of planning that need to be included in your divorce in order to set you on the right course for your post-divorce life? To what extent can you expect your spouse to assist you financially and otherwise when it comes to raising your child after the divorce? These are the questions that I will attempt to go through an answer with you for the remaining portions of today's blog post. 

Focusing on the finances of your post-divorce life

After a lifetime of focusing on your special needs child, it can be disconcerting to need to focus on your finances as you approach a divorce. This can be especially true when you are the spouse who is not focused your attention primarily on your finances. In the event that you have a special needs child it is probable most of your energy has been focused on that child and improving his or her health. A focus on the lifestyle of your child has been prudent to be sure but it's likely left you in a deficit as far as knowledge about your personal finances. 

You have always been able to rely upon your spouse to provide you and your family with the things that you need most including income, a home , food and other essentials period now that you are facing a divorce you can no longer be as complacent about your finances. You need to be able to focus on your child and your money. I'm not saying you should focus equally on either subject but that it would benefit both of you to be able to have a firm grasp on your family finances as well as on your child's well-being. 

You may have never worked before but with a divorce the odds increase that you will need to enter the workforce. With that said, how you manage your transition in a post-divorce life will be impacted by two realities: your special needs child as well as the finances of your marriage. The needs of your child will determine whether or not you are able to enter the workforce and become self-sufficient from an income and financial perspective. The health of your marriage from a financial perspective will go a long way to determining what level of support you may be eligible for in a post-divorce setting. 

Determine the degree to which your child requires special care 

What does it mean to be a special needs child? The special needs of your child could differ dramatically from the special needs of another child. In fact, it is likely that your child may require differing amounts of care than other children who share his or her diagnosis. With that said, nobody knows better than you do what degree of care your child actually needs on a day-to-day basis. For the purposes of your divorce, you will need to be clear about what level of care you and your child's doctors believe that he or she needs. Your opinion on this subject will determine the degree to which your child is cared for in the future by you or by someone else. 

In the event that your child is able to function independently in may attend school you may be able to go and find a job and work. Whether that job is more of a career or a job depends on your level of experience and education. Whether or not that career or job is part time or full time depends on the level of need for your child for you to be with him or her. These are the factors that you need to consider when negotiating through your divorce. Be prepared to obtain statements and opinions from counselors or doctors that work with your child in order to substantiate these positions. 

The reason I recommend you have statements from these folks in order to substantiate your opinions is that it may be the case where your spouse disagrees with your opinions. It would be nice if you and your spouse agreed on all subjects surrounding your special needs child, but this may be unlikely depending on your circumstances. For example, if you are spouse believes that your special needs child can attend school or be in another environment where he or she is occupied for the day then you may have to contest this opinion. Having your own experience is in addition to the opinions of doctors and counselors can be a great asset for you in the event your case proceeds to a trial.

This is the most important question when it comes to spousal support in a post-divorce setting and the needs of your children. If you are not able to work, then you are not able to provide an income for your family. A family with a special needs child, as a general rule, has financial obligations beyond a typical family after a divorce. For this reason, you may need to discuss the subject of post-divorce spousal support in the context of your divorce. 

Spousal maintenance and contractual alimony

In the event that you and your spouse come to the conclusion that you are not able to work after a divorce it is likely that some form of post-divorce spousal support is necessary. The type that you end up receiving will be dependent upon a number of factors including whether or not your case goes to a trial. In the event that your case does make it to a trial then you could be awarded something called spousal maintenance. Spousal maintenance is post-divorce spousal support that is paid to you by your ex-spouse. Spousal maintenance is typically limited to 20% of your ex-spouse’s net monthly income. However, based on the needs of your child and the degree to which your spouse is a high-income earner this amount can fluctuate from case to case.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse are able to settle your case in mediation then any kind of spousal support you receive would be known as contractual alimony. Essentially, you and your spouse would agree to a contract where he would pay you a certain sum of money each month after your divorce that is intended to allow you to care for your child on an ongoing basis. Typically, spousal maintenance is limited in terms of duration, but contractual alimony is not. This may be the best way for your family to go if your child has needs that may change overtime and there is no clear path for you to enter the workforce after the divorce. 

Questions about the information 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, via video and over the phone. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about Texas family law and about the services that power law office provides to clients. We take a great deal of pride in serving our community and in assisting our neighbors here in Southeast Texas. Thank you for your interest in our blog and we hope that you will return tomorrow as we continue to share more information about the world of Texas family law.


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