Raising children is difficult. Moreover, the addition of a child's medical needs, among others, can bring a troubled marriage to a breaking point. Therefore, when parents with a special needs child decide to divorce, that child may need an extra focus placed on their welfare with regards to the divorce or child custody case.
Illinois has a set of guidelines for child support cases. However, these guidelines are not a ceiling on the amount of child support that may be ordered. Judges are required to set a support amount that is in the best interests of the child and reflects all of the facts presented in each case.
A child with special needs may have extraordinary medical costs. He or she may also need extra caretakers. The child support system can address all of these issues, if they are presented properly in the proceedings.
Another common support issue in cases with a special needs child is the need for support after the child turns 18. Normally, child support ends when a child turns 18, but in certain cases it may be appropriate for support to continue for some time beyond that date.
One of the goals of the family courts is to encourage children and parents to continue to have healthy, fulfilling relationships after the divorce. A child with special needs may have mobility struggles that make frequent changes in where he or she sleeps difficult, or even impossible.
Also, parents are encouraged to be creative and to work together to allow the child to have parenting time with both parents. This may mean traditional parenting plans are not an option.
Additionally, technology can be a helpful tool in these situations. When requested, Illinois judges can order virtual parenting time. This would include using technologies like web cams, Skype, FaceTime, email, and other forms of electronic communication to allow parents and children to stay connected even when physical visits are not possible.
Beyond support and parenting time, divorce cases where there are also a special needs child can affect the way marital property is divided. Illinois requires judges to divide marital property equitably. Therefore, a judge will have to divide the assets fairly, but not necessarily equally. A child may have accessibility concerns, such as needing a ramp to enter and exit a home or access to a wheelchair friendly tub. This in turn will affect which parent ends up with the house. The ability for the parent, who will be the primary caretaker of the child, to meet all of his or her child's needs on a daily basis will also affect a judge’s decision about how property is divided.
Divorce and child custody cases are complicated. If you have a special needs child and need advice about divorce and custody, speak with an experienced DuPage County family law lawyer. Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today at 630-665-7676 to schedule a consultation today.