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Divorce considerations: children with special needs

Issues relating to children are often of central importance in a couple's divorce, and this is often a pronounced concern when a child with special needs is a family member.

Divorce discussions and negotiations frequently enough center on matters such as child custody and child support, and these topics can take on an added dimension where a child with life-long care and support needs is involved.

Some states establish a legal cutoff date regarding a parent's financial support duties to a child, e.g., a majority-deigned age such as 18 or 21 or perhaps support obligations terminating with a child's graduation from high school.

That is not the case in Florida, with legislation on the books that gives judges discretion to order continuing support in cases where an offspring is incapable of living independently owing to a disabling condition.

In such a case, there can be much to think about and come to terms with for divorcing parents, not the least of which is the need to maintain open communication that is responsive to a child's particular special-needs situation.

Child custody is a case in point. A child with special needs is often not as flexible as some other children might be concerning spending time in two different homes. If the child enjoys doing so, special accommodations might be required and certain equipment installed.

Parents also need to work closely together and be flexible regarding education and health matters for their child. Some special-needs children need to regularly see various professionals, including tutors, therapists and rehabilitation experts.

Millions of families with a special-needs child thrive post-divorce. What has been pointed to as a common factor in obtaining such an outcome is the ability of the parents to interact cooperatively based on a mutual understanding that they could be in a life-long co-parenting partnership.

Source: Huffington Post, "Listen to our children in need: special needs children and divorce," Sherri Donovan, May 4, 2012

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