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Planning For Special Needs Children in Divorce


While many people realize that getting a divorce while sharing minor children can be complicated, divorcing while sharing children with special needs can be even more complex because parents often have to provide for these children and arrange for their care long after the children are no longer minors.

With the rate of divorce being around 85 percent amongst families of children with special needs, this is an important topic that deserves guidance and consideration, especially amongst family and divorce attorneys who are helping these families plan for the future.

Deciding On “Best Interests” For a Child with Special Needs

Under every state law—including that of Florida’s—what is in the “best interests of the child” is what matters in terms of figuring out time sharing between parents and households. But what exactly does this mean in terms of a child with complex or severe disabilities, who may require lifetime services and support? What about a child with autism or sensory processing issues who may have a more difficult time with change and taking turns staying at one home, then another? In some circumstances, it is entirely possible that one home or parent may be better equipped to manage a child’s disability and special needs, and, frequently, additional financial support is needed in order to provide for special needs children.

Guardianships & Other Provisions after Age 18

In addition, in some instances, a child’s disability will require planning well beyond the child turning 18 and is no longer considered a “minor.” Parents may need to provide for a guardianship, execute a General Durable Power of Attorney to allow for continued assistance with financial making, and also possibly execute a Health Care Proxy to allow for continued assistance with health care issues. However, it is important to note that the child has a certain amount of control over these documents after the age of 18, and is able to name someone other than their parents to fill particular roles, if he or she chooses to do so.

Florida’s Chapter 744 is considered Florida’s “guardianship statute,” and contains most common procedure followed to establish a guardianship in the state. Deciding on guardianship for the child throughout their lifetime can be particularly complex. A guardian has the authority to make very important, life-changing decisions on behalf of the child. In some circumstances, families may want this individual to remain one particular parent, or parents may want to step back and name someone else, while being reassured that they would continue to have an active role in their child’s life, even without being a named guardian.

Florida Divorce, Time Sharing, & Guardianship Lawyers

If you live in Florida and are seeking assistance with any family law issue, including issues involving divorce and special needs children, contact our experienced family law attorneys at HD Law Partners today to find out how we can help.


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