Divorce settlements and custody battles are stressful under any circumstances. If you and your spouse have a disabled child, matters can become even more complex. Your child support agreement will need to take into account your child’s additional needs, special expenses, and medical requirements. The more you know about child support agreements for special needs children in California, the more prepared you’ll be for what happens during your case. Remember that each case is unique. Talk to a divorce attorney for advice about your specific case.
What If Your Disabled Child is an Adult?
The goal of child support payments after divorce is to continue covering a child’s living, care, and medical expenses to the same degree as the child enjoyed while parents were still married. The courts believe a child’s life should remain as unchanged as possible after parents get divorced. Part of achieving this comes in the form of a monthly payment that one spouse must pay to the other – typically to the spouse with primary custody of the child.
Child support agreements can look different in each individual case. In California, a couple can come up with their own child support and custody agreement. However, the family law judge will have the final authority over the amount of child support and who will pay. Support orders can be temporary or permanent, but typically end when the child turns 18. There are exceptions, however, for disabled children. If your child has a disability (mental or physical) that makes him or her “incapacitated from earning a living,” each parent will continue paying child support indefinitely.
The question of how long child support payments will last for a disabled child is a complicated one. The court will need to confirm the child’s disability and determine whether the child is capable of earning a living. Questions of whether the child qualifies for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security benefits will also come into play. The courts will also look at each parent’s ability to provide the adult child with financial security. The process for deciding a support agreement for a disabled child can be long and complex, with many questions to answer and investigations into the matter. At the end of the day, a judge will rule according to the child’s best interests.
Extra Expenses for a Disabled Child
Child support considerations don’t end with determining the length of time to make the agreement. A disability also significantly affects the amount of support the child needs. On top of typical needs that every child has such as food, shelter, school supplies, and clothing, there are special needs to take into account. If you and your spouse are coming up with your own support agreement, don’t forget to consider the following additional costs:
- Disability-related medical care, including medications, nutritional supplements, therapies, in-home care, medical devices, and specialized care.
- Physical accommodations and modifications to homes or vehicles to support the disabled child. Don’t forget costs of transporting the child to and from doctor’s appointments.
- Special education programs and after-school activities. Also include special sessions such as occupational, speech, social, behavioral, and physical therapies.
- Dietary needs. The costs of special food, supplements, and other dietary needs and restrictions that go along with caring for your child.
A typical child support award may not cover all of the additional expenses your special needs child has. You may need to go beyond the California Guideline Child Support Calculator to come up with a suitable amount in your specific situation. For help with special needs child support agreements, contact a lawyer.