Negotiation of parenting and support issues during a divorce is difficult enough, but when a dependent child has a serious disability, it adds a whole new dimension to the divorce settlement process. Here are some of the support, visitation and life-long issues that impact settlement negotiations.
Possible Extension Of Child Support Payments
If you have an existing child support arrangement for a disabled minor child that is about to turn 18, your responsibility may not end even though your child becomes an adult. Family law in Pennsylvania states that, in most cases, support ends when the child is over 18 years of age.
However, recent court decisions regarding support of dependent adult children support the parents' responsibility to support their adult children that are unable to support themselves due to a mental or physical disability. Adding to the uncertainty, you and your ex-spouse may not know if your child's disability will remain at the same severity through to adulthood or not.
A Need For Advocacy
During the divorce settlement phase, you will want to ensure your disabled child gets needed support for extended care and medical intervention. You will need to advocate for your child by producing evidence for the support you're requesting. Show your child's needs for ongoing care and support through organized documentation supporting the existence of a disability. This information will give your attorney an accurate idea of what your child needs.
Feasibility of Visitation
There are situations where a child is so medically fragile due to disability that it would not benefit the child to travel to another home for visitation. In those cases, creative arrangements are needed for non-custodial parent visitation.
Uncertainty Calls For Flexibility
According to the latest Pennsylvania census, almost 10 percent of the Pennsylvania population under 65 years of age has a disability. So even though this is a challenging situation, it is a common occurrence. If a couple that already has a disabled adult child decides to divorce, they may have more certainty about their child's present and future abilities.
Their uncertainty may lie in how the care and support of the child will be split after the divorce and into the future, especially after one or both parents die. Exploring a Special Needs Trust for the disabled adult child with legal counsel during divorce negotiations can provide a solution that benefits both the parents and adult child.