Every divorce will involve particular challenges. Few are more difficult than addressing the needs of the children, particularly if they are special needs children. Regardless of how well the parents get along or are effective as coparents, there will be unique complications where the parents will need to be especially careful to minimize the hurt, anxiety and frustration that the child may feel.
Every parent’s goal in a divorce is to put the child’s best interests first, which can mean a mediated divorce where the two sides can work together to create workable solutions. Three critical areas to address are:
- Custody: Custody is generally shared these days, but that usually ends when Colorado children turn 19. However, special needs children may continue to live with their parents well into adulthood. There may also be cognitive issues that require the coparents to continue to make custody-based decisions after the children become adults. Once they are 19, it may be appropriate to choose a legal guardian.
- Support: Child support would typically end at 19, but the parents may need to continue to support the special needs child indefinitely. It may involve paying a former spouse or covering living expenses in an assisted living facility.
- Estate planning: Rather than leaving it up to siblings or the state to be responsible for the child, the coparents can set up a special needs trust. These arrangements can best ensure that the child is cared for. They can also be designed to maximize the benefits that are due to them. The parents will need to pick a trustee, who may be different than the parent or guardian.
Setting the right tone
Mediation is often used for divorce as an alternative to litigation in court. Spouses with children like the format because it places less stress on the family and enables the parents to design their own parenting plan that works for them. These arguments are only amplified when the divorce involves a special needs child. Parents wishing to explore this option can discuss their concerns with an experienced family law attorney with mediation experience.