Determining child support for a special needs child can affect how you arrive at divorce terms. If you have a child who is autistic, a child who was born with cerebral palsy or who has some other extreme mental or physical disability, it’s likely your child may depend on you and your spouse beyond the age of 18. In some instances, child support could go on indefinitely.
How Child Support Works in the Majority of Divorce Cases
The Texas Family Code states that “the court may order either or both parents to support a child in the manner specified by the order until the child is 18 years of age or until the graduation from high school, whichever occurs later.” In most cases, the parent no longer pays child support past this point because the court considers the child has reached the legal age where he or she can be self-supportive.
How Child Support Involving a Special Needs Child Differs
The Texas Family Code specifies that the court may order either or both parents to provide for the support of a special needs child for an indefinite period because the child requires substantial care and personal supervision due to physical or mental disability. The court may determine the rights and duties of the parents differently in such in a case.
If you are your child’s primary custodian, your lawyer can help you present a case to the court regarding your child’s disability so that you can continue receiving child support past the point of your child reaching the age of 18.
Guidelines for Child Support in Special Needs Child Cases
Texas law provides guidelines that are straightforward in many cases. However, with a special needs child, the court may deviate from regular guidelines due to the greater expenses involved. What are the expenses often considered?
- Childcare costs
- Medical care and medication
- Special educational needs
- Physical therapy
- Specialized equipment (wheelchair, for example)
Having a lawyer at your side who understands first hand the intricacies of a special needs child and who has legal experience dealing with these types of case can be invaluable. You may be able to qualify for financial and other assistance as well to help you care for your child. Ask to speak with our attorney, Jennifer Richardson.