Meeting Your Child’s Special Needs After Separation


Every parent has an ongoing responsibility to support their child.

All parents have to work together to raise their children to the best of their ability.  There are times of joy and also times of struggle.   Raising a special needs child presents its own victories and challenges, and parents find themselves in many cases with not only having the same pressures that every parent faces, but increased medical expenses, educational costs, and other specialized factors that cannot be imagined in a routine, typical budget.

When you and your co-parent decide to split, either by divorce or paternity action, there are also special considerations that you need to think about when planning how things will work moving forward.   Typically, child support is determined using five factors: the income of the Mother, the income of the Father, the number of overnight time-sharing that each parent has with the minor child, who pays for day care, and health insurance costs.   But, when your child has medical or psychological needs that are significant, Fla. Stat. 61.30 has several avenues for parents to ensure that the financial needs of the child are going to be met for the long term.     Discussing your child’s mental or physical needs with an experienced attorney is important in the proper calculation of the amount and term of child support for your child.    The attorneys at Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A, have represented parents of special needs children in determining if a child support increase, extension beyond the age of eighteen (18) years old, or other factors that may impact the provision of care to special needs children after parents have separated.

When you are speaking to an attorney about your child’s special needs, it is important to bring documentation of the child’s diagnosis and prognosis to your consultation so that the attorney can understand from the medical perspective when an expert, or physician, may testify.  Other documents that also helpful are therapy records, school records, and medical bills that you have received.   All of the information that you can provide your attorney in crafting your argument is helpful as children’s needs can be as diverse as they are.

In the State of Florida, a judge can rule that, while most child support orders once a child reaches the age of eighteen (18) years old, gets marries, dies, joins the military, or if they are still in high school with the clear indication of graduating before they reach the age of nineteen (19) years old, that child support will automatically end at that time.    But in special cases, after significant evidence is weighed by the judge, it can be found that child support can continue well into adulthood, if the best interest of the child indicates that they will continue to be dependent on their parents after the age of majority.  In order to be successful, having an experienced attorney argue your points to the judge is essential in making your best case for consideration.

In addition, it’s also important to consider that for every parent, child support does not include uncovered medical expenses.  For an otherwise healthy, typical child, these uncovered medical expenses may include co-payments, holistic treatments, over the counter medications, but rarely expenses so significant that they are financial destructive to either parent.  In the case of a special needs child, these expenses can be astronomical and, they are not included as a part of child support.    They may include specialist visits, medical equipment for the home or school, accommodations for education, specialized therapies, and sometimes, private school tuition.   Considering how these costs will impact you, and how child support may also pay a significant factor in your budget, are just a few of the services that an experienced family law attorney can help to guide you on through the process.



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