Divorces that involve children are naturally the most difficult of all, and if your child has special needs, it is that much more difficult. Children with special needs often require more ongoing care and attention than other children – often far into their futures. Because the special care children with special needs require translates into more time spent actively parenting and to increased expenses, the courts take this into careful consideration when determining child support for these children (in relation to their unique needs). If you have concerns about child support for your child with special needs, you need the professional legal guidance of an experienced Houston family law attorney.
Calculating Child Support
Generally, child support in Texas is calculated according to state guidelines, and the parent with a visitation schedule usually pays the parent with whom the children primarily live child support payments. The parent who pays child support typically pays a set percentage of his or her net monthly income in child support, and making the child-support calculation is fairly cut and dry – with little wiggle room for discretion. When the child in question has compelling special needs, however, the court will usually take a more holistic approach to child support and will carefully consider all the circumstances involved.
Does My Child Have Special Needs?
For the purposes of calculating child support, special needs refer to a mental health and/or medical condition that precludes your child from being able to significantly contribute to taking care of himself or herself or of being able to live independently as an adult. The fact is that your child could have a serious health condition that, nevertheless, won’t qualify as special needs in terms of child support. The issue can obviously be complicated, but working closely with a skilled family lawyer will help ensure that you receive the child support you need to help your child reach his or her fullest potential.
Documenting Your Child’s Special Needs
The courts will implement a careful process to determine if your child has special needs that warrant expanded child support, and if so, the degree to which this applies. To enable the court to make the most accurate determination, you’ll provide a wide range of important documents that include:
- Your child’s health records (including records related to mental health)
- Your child’s educational records
- Reports from your child’s school counselor, occupational therapist, and/or speech therapist (as applicable)
The judge in charge of your case will consider all the unique factors related to your child and will make his or her assessment based on your child’s unique needs. The court is always motivated by the best interests of the child in question and will make its decision accordingly (within the parameters of the intentions of child support).
Determining the Duration of Child Support
Child support in Texas usually extends until the time the child is emancipated, which generally occurs at the age of 18. There are exceptions that can affect the duration of child support, however, and they include:
- The child in question has a full-time job or joins the military before the age of 18
- The child in question gets married prior to turning 18
- The child in question moves into the non-custodial parent’s home prior to turning 18
- The child in question doesn’t complete high school by the age of 18
Additionally, when a child furthers his or her education after high school, the parents may negotiate child support to continue through to college graduation. Child support, however, rarely extends beyond the age of 21 unless the child in question has special needs that make this necessary.
If your child is determined to have special needs, the court will consider exactly how these special needs relate to child support and will make its determinations accordingly. Depending upon the type and seriousness of your child’s condition, the child support you receive may extend well beyond his or her 21st birthday. If you are seeking child support for a child with special needs who has already turned 18, however, you must be able to show that the disability that qualifies him or her as having special needs in the first place was identified prior to the child’s 18th birthday. The court will base its decision related to the duration of your child support on all relevant factors involved, and it has the capacity to extend the support indefinitely if the situation warrants it. Further, if there is a possibility that your child’s condition will improve with time, the court may extend the duration of child support to a specified date – at which time it will reevaluate the situation.
The Intention of Child Support
Child support serves a very important role in divorce, which is to allow the primary custodial parent with the ability to raise and provide for the children until such time as they are ready to move forward as adults with agency of their own. This support includes the cost of providing the children with a home, nutritious meals, necessary daycare, school supplies, entertainment, medical care, and more. Raising children is an expensive but critical task that all parents shoulder. Raising a child with special needs, however, is often far more expensive and time consuming. Sometimes, in fact, children with special needs require expansive care indefinitely. The court takes all of this under advisement when determining the child support appropriate for a child with special needs.
An Experienced Houston Family Law Attorney Can Help with Your Child-Support Concerns
If you have child-support concerns related to a child with special needs, the dedicated family law attorneys at The Rudisel Law Firm, P.C., in Houston, are committed to helping you. Our formidable and compassionate family lawyers will skillfully advocate on behalf of your child’s best interests and the support necessary to provide the opportunities and care he or she deserves. Your case is important to us, so please don’t hesitate to contact or call us at 713-781-7775 for a free consultation today.