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Divorce and Children With Special Needs


Divorce is a complicated process for any couple with children in Colorado, even under normal circumstances. When a child of the marriage has special needs, divorce can come with even more challenges. It is possible to get a divorce as the parent of a child with special needs with minimal financial and emotional stress. Overcoming the obstacles of your particular divorce case in Fort Collins may require assistance from a Fort Collins divorce attorney.

Custody Concerns When a Child Has Special Needs

The greatest concern for parents in a divorce case is usually child custody. You and your spouse have the chance to work out a custody arrangement between yourselves before the matter will go to a judge. All couples in Colorado have the opportunity to reach a settlement on custody, child visitation, child support and other matters before a judge intervenes. When it comes to dividing custody of a child with special needs, everyone involved will have to consider unique factors.

  • If your child can mentally and emotionally handle sharing time between two households. Children with special needs are often highly sensitive to change and need stability.
  • If it is safe for your child to go back and forth between two households, as well as how you plan on handling transportation.
  • Whether your child has a nurse or caregiver that will need to accompany him or her to each household.
  • How knowledgeable each parent is about the needs of the child and childcare, including how involved each parent has been with necessary services.
  • How much time each parent will have to dedicate to caring for a child with special needs after the divorce.

You can increase your chances of working together with your ex on a custody agreement that works for the whole family by hiring a custody attorney. An attorney will understand Colorado’s divorce laws that apply to your specific situation and how best to navigate them. Your lawyer can oversee meetings and mediation with your ex to facilitate communication and compromises. If your divorce case does end up going to trial, your lawyer can represent you and your child’s best interests before a judge.

Special Needs Children and Child Support

The courts in Colorado will most likely need to deviate from the standard child support chart when determining financial matters for a child with special needs. It will be up to you or your attorney to document all of the expenses related to caring for your child special needs and to negotiate for a fair support award. You will need to consider factors such as your child’s current needs, future needs and whether you qualify for public benefits.

How long the paying spouse will have the child support obligation is also different when a child has special needs. While in most cases, a child support order ends when a child turns 18, this is generally not the case when a child has special needs. If the child with special needs will be dependent on the caregiving parent longer than the age of 18 or for life, the courts will extend the other parent’s child support obligation. The amount of child support may fluctuate based on the child’s changing needs and factors such as eligibility for Supplemental Security Income benefits at the age of 18.

Spousal Support Payments

In many cases, the spouse with primary custody of a child with special needs will have to make changes to his or her work-life balance after a divorce. The parent may have to quit his or her job or switch to part-time instead of full-time work. This will lead to a greater need for spousal support or alimony from the noncustodial spouse.

If one parent has to earn less to take on more parenting time with a child with special needs, the other parent may have to pay spousal support to make up for the loss of income. The amount awarded in spousal maintenance will depend on factors such as how much both parents earn, the custody arrangement and the length of the marriage.

For assistance with all aspects of your divorce with a child with special needs, contact an attorney to discuss your particular case.

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