Loud and Clear: A Special Needs Conversation

Divorce and Children with Special Needs

By Lili A. Vasileff

There are few challenges more difficult than going through divorce and having a child with special needs. As a divorced, single parent of a beautiful daughter with special needs, I can tell you that you realize immediately that the burden of future planning, well-being and protection fall squarely on your shoulders as a custodial parent. It is the daily living and ordinary moments that test your self -reliance and capacity to parent alone.

When there is a child with special needs involved in a divorce, issues of child custody, visitation, and support and property division are significantly more complex to negotiate. As part of your divorce, make sure you consider globally what your child’s special needs are and have your attorney walk you through a “day in the life” of caring for your child.

Child support charts do not address the extra expenses of a child with special needs. There is increased need for specialty medical care, services, and equipment; for non-prescription treatments, vitamins and nutritional needs; for paid respite care for the custodial parent. Uncertainty about the nature and cost of future care makes it difficult to estimate disability-related expenses in a divorce agreement.

From a legal perspective, the goal is to identify and understand how to determine the child’s best interests. Here are some examples:

  • With whom will the child live?
  • How much contact (previously termed “access” or, in some jurisdictions, “visitation“) will the parents, legal guardian or other parties be allowed (or required) to have?
  • To whom and by whom will child support be paid and in what amount?

A parenting plan should spell out essential information and instructions. A good starting point is to explore how much you and your spouse agree concerning your child’s disabilities and abilities.

In structuring a divorce agreement, special care must be given to parenting arrangements, estate planning and the child’s transition to adulthood. Legislation and case law are evolving in this area as more family lawyers deal with a burgeoning number of cases involving children with special needs.

In the divorce agreement, care must be given to unique issues that arise in the child’s transition into adulthood, such as guardianship, eligibility for quasi- government or private agency benefits, employment, recreation and social skills, independent living, or custodial care. Typically with developing children, child support and custody end at age of majority or when they graduate from college. Divorcing parents of children with special needs who have severe impairments face the reality of life- long care- giving and, perhaps, co-parenting.

Alimony (spousal maintenance) and child support payments need to consider the child’s eligibility for public benefits as both a minor and adult. It is essential that your family law attorney work with a special needs attorney and an experienced financial adviser to eliminate risk of forfeiting the child’s entitlements. Divorce attorneys do not always know how child support payments made directly to the custodial parent interact (negatively) with “means tested” government benefit programs like SSI and Medicaid. In-kind alimony and/or child support should be considered in order to preserve government benefits. It is critical to address these issues during the divorce process.

Managing the care of a child with special needs is often a full- time job and the effect on the custodial parent’s income should be considered when establishing spousal maintenance. Since caring for your child with special needs may extend well beyond age of majority, you need to tailor your divorce agreement for the long-term. Use appropriate special needs trusts, in coordination with public benefits and in contemplation of gifting plans and long-term care insurance. Effectively channel support obligations and parenting plans in the divorce settlement to provide for more quality of life expenditures for the child.

Make the system work better for you and your family by taking a practical look at what special needs exist and how they are appropriately addressed in the arena of divorce.

Lili A. Vasileff, CFP®, CDFA™ is President of both the international Association of Divorce Financial Planners and Divorce and Money Matters, LLC, a private divorce financial planning practice. She is the co-author of The Ultimate Divorce Organizer: The Complete Legal , Financial and Personal Guide to Divorce.

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | 68 Comments »

68 responses to “Divorce and Children with Special Needs”

  1. Lisa Malone says:

    I am a single mother of a wonderful autistic son. His Dad and I had been married 17 years when he up and left us destitute. He left his job and moved to Mississippi with his girlfriend. Took all our retirement, pension, 401 K. Have looked and looked for someone to help me and my son for 2 years Please somebody have it in their heart to help.

  2. Dear Lisa,
    I would be pleased to talk with you and explore your options. Please email me (lili@divorcematters.com) about how to contact you and when. Thank you!

  3. My autistic son is aging out of school next year, his father will not even talk to me. How do I extend, and increase alimony, or get him to spend time with him so I can work, I need money and a break, he will be with me for a long time. I am now 60, need to make money. I need fathers help. I have a lawyer, but need the way to do this. Many thanks

  4. Regrettably the only way to extend, increase, or challenge parenting plans or support is to seek to enforce legally your divorce agreement or to seek modification of your agreement. The terms and amount of support are set forth legally in your divorce agreement. Grounds for changing these must be legally executed and based on specific criteria. A change in your financial circumstances is sufficient to re-examine criteria for possible modification.If your ex-spouse refuses to deal with any of your issues or those of your son, it is best to hire a legal advocate.

  5. Jon says:

    I am a soon to be divorced father with twin boys. One is special needs with autism and cerebral palsy. I have always been the main caregiver as far as his doctors, therapy, school, etc. Now I’m facing a 50/50 custody with a mother that goes out and leaves the child with their grandmother more than being with them. I know I can get first right of refusal. But are there any legal pathways I can pursue to make sure that he is with me and not a sitter when his mother has them and is not present. She tends to never go anywhere with them and I am always taking them everywhere with me. I’m seeing a decline in his social development. Their grandmother is wonderful but is 70 and its too much on her. Please help.

    • Janet says:

      Hi Jon,

      My Fiance is going through such a similar issue with his severely disabled son who has CP. 🙁 He’s always been the one caring for his son, and after his divorce with her, his mother is extremely negligent of his needs, even more than when they were married. Their son misses school, doctors appointments, physical therapy and isn’t bathed according to sources that told his Dad when he’s with his mother. They have 50/50 custody split. CPS has dragged her into court, but still, he’s not put in full custody with his Dad. She is only interested in her son for the law-suit money she collects monthly. It’s really sad and the courts don’t seem to recognize Father’s Rights around here, because they value Mothers so much more here, and that could lead to the demise of their son. She’s put him in real danger. There’s more to the story.

      I just feel it would be nice if good Fathers like you could have a connecting point for emotional support. Would it be okay if you two connected? If so, please write me and I’ll get you two connected. I’m going to show this site to him also. I just found this, and am so grateful that I did! Thanks, Special Needs Alliance!

      And also, if anyone reading this can help my Fiance and his son, please, we welcome your wisdom. It’s gotten really crazy and he needs a good lawyer. I’m really scared for my future step-son’s life! Thank you!

  6. sofia girgis says:

    I’m a single mom who has an autistic son I have never been married to the Father he abandon us and I have done all I can to involve him in his life but he hasn’t been around for 8 months I just want to know if there is a way that I can get permanent custody of my son I do my own a BA with him I take him to therapy in the morning School the afternoon for therapy in the evening I take him everywhere to get social interaction and when I do talk to his father he just told me that I stressing out because I tell him that he has to call everyday be consistent in order for me to let him see my son because it could hurt him developmentally he hasn’t seen him in almost a year and is doing very good and you can’t even be consistent and its hurting him and it’s hurting me and I don’t want any money from him I don’t want nothing from him all I want is permanent custody of my son can anyone help mehe has a history of being abusive to me I left the situation because the last time I lived in Las Vegas he hit me while I was holding my son and I did not want to stick around for him to physically hurt myself someone please help

  7. Gail says:

    I am seeking full custody of my son with special needs. I want to make sure that access or visitation is at my son’s discretion and he will not be required by contract or forced by his father to visit. He’s 16 and their relationship isn’t good. My son doesn’t care to have him around often. The father is unstable, but may cause issues out of embarrassment (he has already). Also, if the father one day realizes that he wants to reconsider the custody, is there anyway to prevent this from happening? Most likely I will be seeking guardianship when my son turns 18 and I don’t want his father to come back to haunt us or my son in the future. Is there special verbiage that I can use in the agreement to protect my son? I am not seeking any child support as all of us (other kids too) just want him out of our lives without any strings attached. Thanks.

  8. Rhonda King says:

    I have two autistic twins 19 yrs. Old . Their dad walked out of their lifes. Didn’t help with anything in high school. Pro. Graduation nothin. He don’t buy clothes he don’t abide by anything in the divorce papers. It’s like I am taking care of babies alone and he gets to run free.please please help I never have money. He want help he blocked our numbers. Idk what to do. Hit bottom.

  9. Jason says:

    I currently have custody of my son who is high functioning autistic. His mother walked out on us twice. We divorced almost a year ago. Now after a year of me trying to get her to co-parent and her fighting me all the way she has a need to show face to her family and new man. She is trying to get full custody of our son. No one (including her sometimes) is acknowledging what the change will do to him. I give him structure and stability, consistency. All she thinks about is her wants. The IEP councilor even said it would be a bad idea to pull him from his current situation and school. Lawyers here don’t care nor does the mediator. 🙁 The demands are full custody or 1 week on 1 week off. I need help or a better way to get the lawyers or court to hear my pleas that this is not only a waste of time and money but it will destroy my son. His welling is all I care about. If the court does the 1 to 1 then I will be strong enough to say no. I CANT do that to my son. After all the therapy, Brain Balance, special diet needs and ocular therapy it would kill him. I would give her the custody if the judge tries to force that. It will hurt but It’s not about me, my kid comes first no matter what. I know its hard to believe but as a Dad that actually got custody (which frankly, never happens in my state) I am truly understanding how my new partner felt when she went through this. I understand now what all these woman are feeling. The struggles and feeling associated with divorce and special needs children.
    Suggestions? Links to go to? Anything?

    • Cathy Bahan says:

      I’d suggest you contact a Special Needs Alliance member attorney. If you go to http://www.specialneedsalliance.org/find-an-attorney/ , you’ll find a directory that’s organized by state.

    • Melissa says:

      Hi , Jason I am in a similar situation. I would love to chat with you for some moral support , I think men like you are few and far between .I commend you on your loyalty to your family you don”t hear of that much anymore. My name is Melissa and I have two Autistic sons which I take care of on my own . I would love to help anyway I can !

  10. Lu Adair says:

    My son is 21 (Aspergers) . I am getting a divorce and still need some financial help. Would it still be considered child support? I want him to keep in touch with dad so I can get a break. Would that be visitation? Because he is over 21 and can come and go as he pleases I am not sure how to word it. Trying to divorce without an attorney. We are in agreement about everything so far.

  11. Claudia Rodriguez says:

    My child is turning 21 years old in December (Down Syndrome). His father lives in NY and I live in California. Together we have two children, our youngest is 18 years old. I moved from NY when the boys were 2 and 4 years old and almost every year since I moved from NY to CA I have traveled back to visit family and every single visit the father has picked up our youngest son but not our oldest. He once said that it was too hard for him to handle. He completely washed his hands from our son when we split. I would like some help in pursuing the child support. I feel its only fair that he continues to pay for our oldest son.

  12. Tammy Keever says:

    I need help on this…my son has special needs from a auto accident 18 years ago….he will be turning 18 this September….and the thing is, his dad and I aren’t together at all…and we live in separate houses and I am remarried….and my son lives with me…so when applying for guardianship of my son….I am appointing myself as guardian over him….his dad wants to be guardian also….and wants me to put his name on the guardianship papers….do I have too??? I need help!!!!

  13. Gilmar says:

    I need help. My son is 8 and has high functioning autism. His dad and are divorced. The process took almost 3 years in which I never received child support for my son and he visited him just twice both times days before a court date. I couldn’t afford a lawyer and I proceeded Pro se. I took time to prepare myself but I guess I failed to do things right. On trail my ex repeatedly denied my son’s autism diagnosis, even though I had a medical diagnosis from when he was three, two diagnosis from 2 different school districts. Now he has 50/50 custody of my son and was ordered to pay a minimum amount of child support and he hasn’t made a payment to date or filed an income withhold order and he was ordered by the judge. The only two times he has came to my pick my son up has been a disaster. My son doesn’t want to go with him (he lives 3 hours away) but he forced him to go. The first time my son called on distress crying wanting to come back home in the middle of the night and since then he’s terrified to go there again. I went to pick him up first time in the morning. The second time my ex came forced him again even thought I have repeatedly begged him to go on my son pace and not force things because of the stress and the behavior damage that these episodes have on my son. But he fails to understand my son’s disabilities and makes not effort to educate himself about autism and how to approach our son. So he came and picked him up and once again my son refused to go but he pushed him. Then when they left and he took the highway my son tried to jump out of the car and had a horrible meltdown. He couldn’t handle it and had no option but bring him back to me screaming and pointing fingers.
    The judge in the final judgement ordered me to take my son to have another autism screening which I did and it obviously proved my son does have autism. Now I need to modify visitations to avoid these distressing episodes and modify child support so I can pay for my son’s therapies and support he needs but I’m terrified to be let down once again by the justice system because I cannot afford a lawyer. Please help.

  14. Mel Skelton says:

    My friend is getting a divorce and has cared for his disabled adult daughter as much as the mother. The mother has legal guardianship and tells him if he divorces her she will take all his assets and never let him see the adult child again.. Is this possible?

  15. Elisa S says:

    I have a 20 year old severely disabled daughter and my ex wants to start paying support to her through a special needs trust. What he pays gets spent every month. How will this work if you have to have a certain balance and what kind of headache will it become to access it and now account for every penny spent ?

  16. Allison says:

    My Husband has an austistic son who is 24. He works two days a week and collects disability. His mother whom he resides has done little to help with his social anxiety. Courts ordered my husband to pay monies for him. She was told to get him help to learn how to do things on his own she did for a minute. All the years he lived with her why wasn’t he ready to go on his own. He’s stopped programs saying people there are worse than him stopped counseling now mother trying to put him in something else all due to 23 yo sister immancipated its all about the money for her plus she gets child support for the 12 yo. $1600 a month. Why is it he can work two days a week collect disability tell his mom no groups no counseling and my husband has to pay? I have seen down syndrome people working at places like McDonalds why is he so special. The judge left the case open, but I think he’s being had. We barely make it. He was also ordered to pay part of his 23 yo college fund after 4 yrs of not paying there was an agreement between him and ex and that changed too as soon as he took her to court for immamcipation. She has turned his family on him his kids messes with
    visitation and gets away with it all. Can you please help with this. I believe she has had plenty of time ro prepare the autistic son for the real world but, waited till immancipation time so she wouldn’t lose money fought for this. This is so unfair.

  17. Jamie Duda says:

    Hi,
    I’m in the middle of a divorce and just ran across this page.
    My son is 6 and has Down Syndrome. I’m trying to find the best parenting plan that is in the best interest for him.
    I live in NE and his father lives in MO, a three hour trip there and back.
    My son has activities and school, which I would like for him to continue as it is good for him in many ways.
    His father is in denial when it comes to his Disability.
    Could you help or do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you

  18. tim Monroe says:

    I have had custody of my daughter since birth. Divorced her mom when she was 13 and got physical placement ast she 18 her mother went for custody. Many daughter got a guardian ad litem who did no research and passed along to the judge a third party who is now her guardian. My daughter still lives with me and now I have to watch this person tell me what is going to happen with my child and all her job is to put her in a home. I agree she should go into a home where there are kids her age she can grow with at the right time after she graduates and traditions and is ready. What can I do? Do I have any rights at all anymore? I’m so tired of the fight

  19. Cindy Kennedy says:

    my daughter, Sarah Clark, is a dedicated mother to Claire, 4, (with Down Syndrome) and Dani, 2. She divorced a year ago, thinking she had sole physical custody. At the time, she was living here in St. Joseph, MO, where I live so I could help. Her alcoholic husband, who lives in Omaha, was picking up the girls drunk at the halfway point. So Sarah now lives in Omaha (actually Papillion).
    Now the ex-husband is trying to get 50/50 custody, and as Sarah has been fighting this, learned that no she doesn’t have sole physical custody. But, she has joint custody. Her attorney here in St. Joe had her sign the docs, telling her nothing had changed.
    Anyway, not to belabor that point, but that’s why she is at risk of losing her children and having them only 50% of the time.
    Her attorney says the exhusband’s 2 DUI’s is not enough to prove he’s an alcoholic. If he gets another one, that will be enough to throw this out of court. Well, until that happens, I am maintaining that a child with Down Syndrome MUST HAVE A CONSISTENT LIFE STYLE, INCLUDING DIET, MEDICAL ATTENTION, DISCIPLINE, DAILY ROUTINE, ENOUGH SLEEP, ETC. ETC. ETC.
    There MUST BE A PRECEDENT SET WITH PARENTS WITH A CHILD WHO HAS DOWN SYNDROME!!!!

    AND THERE MUST BE SOME WAY WE CAN PROVE TO THE JUDGE THAT THIS IS EXTREMELY DETRIMENTAL TO CLAIRE’S GROWTH!!!!

    CAN YOU HELP GIVE ME SOME DIRECTION???

  20. Guillermo Arce says:

    Getting divorced, mom moved out the house and left with a son with autism and a 21 year old daughter with schizophrenia and currently I am her conservator after being found gravely disabled beyond a reasonable doubt. I am at the family home and I am paying all the bills, including the mortgage and all. Mom takes her paycheck and provides zero support to the kids. I know that under California law parents have an obligation to support their disabled children. My daughter is very impacted with her mental condition and requires constant supervision and medication monitoring. She goes to the hospital at least 2 times a year due to psychotic episodes. I basically don’t have a life, I also have full time employment so juggling the responsibilities is tough. I am concerned about the effect that an order for support will have on their benefits, my son gets Medi-Cal through the DD Waiver, In Home Supportive Services and my daughter SSI and Medi-Cal, as well as, In-Home Supportive Services. They need these benefits. Of course my wife wants 1/2 of our assets and said to sell the house so she could get her 1/2. I don’t know if I can refinance and I don’t know if I can start paying 30 years of mortgage payments. My health is not good, I had kidney failure last year and currently have moderate chronic kidney disease probably with a year or two before dialysis is starts. I also have other chronic health conditions. Anyway I need to know about in-kind alimony instead of child support payments to avoid causing disruptions on children’s benefits. I do carry private health insurance but, Medi-Cal provides IHSS for my minor autistic son. I don’t want to deal with the hassle.

  21. Matt says:

    My husband has a 2 1/2 year old with his previous girlfriend. We try and do everything we can to see them. We beg to keep them over night. We beg for more hours. We have papers already so we can see them. Now that he has been on a regular over night and daily visits with us she found out he was high functioning autism. Now, we no longer can have them for more than 4 hours. Nor, keep them over night because it is out of his normal routine. We have never seen him throw a tantrum or have night mares or anything to affect his normal behavior. She says she has seen it and we have no clue what’s going on. That when he stays the night with us he’s endangering himself. We’ve asked for proof. Still none, and it’s been 4 months. Is this legally right? Is it good for his health to actually not stay the night with us? What should we do??

  22. janet says:

    hi i have a daughter with cerebral palsy . she is now 29 and the gov. want to mancipe her. her dad never there for her im the only one doing everything she can’t walk , she can’t do anything i feed her dress her do everything. what can i do that her dad don’t stop to give her child support that is a misery 20 dollar a week.. i don’t write very well english but i understand. please someone can tell me if there any law that help my daughter

  23. Wendy says:

    I need help. I have a daughter who has type I diabetes and was recently diagnosed with JIA which can potentialy be a crippling disease. She has so many doctor appointments and the father refuses to help. I hsve 5 other kids and work full time. I need help. We had mediation on Monday and we have court set for August 31. What are the laws to make him help with her? Are there any? PLEASE HELP!!!!

  24. Jennifer says:

    I had primary physical custody for 17 yrs, relinquished custody to dad so that moderately cognitively impaired daughter could complete senior year at HS. I moved about 35 mins. away. out of district. Arrangement was supposed to be temporary however Dad now refuses to relinquish physical custody so that daughter may start post-secondary program and live with me. Program vetted by both of us. He is most definitely motivated by the receipt of support payments. I LIVE IN ESSEX County case is being heard in MIDDLESEX County at the end of the month. I’m seeking counsel. Please help!!!

    • Sandra Stinson says:

      Jennifer,
      I am a mom of an autistic son having a trial in Middlesex County in about one week. I would so much appreciate speaking to you ASAP if you don’t mind. Can you send me a message on Facebook (reminding me who you are)….and my profile is my son’s face next to mine in a restaurant with some frozen drinks. On Facebook, you will find me as “Sandra Stinson”. thank you!

  25. Diane says:

    My son and daughter in law live in my husbands and my home. It’s a mother daughter type. They have twin sons one of which has autism. My husband and I have helped the both in almost every way we have bought the boys school clothes, coats and shoes, whatever they needed we helped them with. After 15 yrs of marriage they are looking to divorce. She is not the best mother she will make food for our autistic grandson which is only grilled cheese sandwiches or chicken nuggets but we cooked two days a week and her father brought over pizza one day a week. She did not cook the other days. My son would cook the other 2 days before he would go to work. Weekends we usually bought them take out. When they decided to end their marriage ( they have not done so yet ) she was going to move out and give prime custody to my son and only see the boys every other weekend. She had also suggested that they split the boys and leave her autistic son with my son and she would take the other boy. The law states in NY that the mother can stay in the home that the austic child is comfortable in and the husband must leave. Once she found this out she now wants to stay in my home and have my son pay for everything. My husband and I are 65 yrs old and our sons helps us when needed. She does nothing to help maintain the house or yard. Do as homeowners have any rights in this matter? 3 yrs ago we put our son on the deed under a Declaration of Life Estate to try and protect this home,that has been in my husbands family since 1955, from the state taking if we ended up in a Nursing Home. My daughter in law does not want these boys she just does not want to pay any out of pocket expence on her end.

  26. margaret says:

    my daughter’s relationship with a man has now dissolved but their 2yr old son has been diagnose with autism and low muscle tone. She has custody without the courts involved and he has agreed to this with one day a week for 2hrs. and every saturday for 6hrs. The problem is he wants more time but does not believe that the child has special needs and does not take care of him properly. If she goes to court will he be granted more time? Her fear is this and that we cannot prove that he will be taken care of properly.

  27. Paula says:

    I live in NY and have been divorced for 11 years. My special needs son is now 19. I have joint guardianship w/ my ex (I am his custodial parent). We have followed the same visitation schedule throughout the years, but due to some new circumstances, my son is expressing reluctance to go to his dad’s. My attorney said the court will not address our visitation schedule because of his age, saying “It’s up to him if he goes to his dad’s or not.” Is there any exception to this where a court would be willing to address this situation given the fact that my son is developmentally around 4 and lacks the expressive language skills to really voice what he wants? We recently had a situation where my son refused to go to his dad’s for dinner and when I told my ex, he answered with a threat that the next time my son went over there he would not send him home again.

  28. Nicole Remsburg says:

    Could someone please help me with a complicated domestic relations issue? My son, is on the Autism Spectrum as well as having Intellectual Disabilities, severe Juvenile Arthritis, etc. When the child support was calculated in York County, it never to into account that I was totally & permanently disabled and my son was a special needs child. I found out after two years of being on LTD, that John’s Hoskins had no more options for me and Prudential-Disability hired a third party, ALLSUP to file for Social Security Disability benefits for me, then filed for my son. They were responsible for making me when at 70% of my base salary. This was all a scam. But meanwhile, the Federal Government ended paying for child support and the ex only had to pay $79 a MONTH for child support. I could have gotten lifetime alimony but I was assured that I would be able to return to my lucrative career. Therefore; the $500 alimony ended December 2015. He stop paying child support May 2015. I was in a very verbally and emotionally abuse marriage for 13 years. We have 50/50 custody but he never followed the custody order. He did what he wanted. I am barely holding on to my townhouse and feed my son. I want to focus on file a domestic relations case in the County we both have been living in for the past five years. The ex’s high priced attorney told him “no matter what, don’t let her file in Dauphin County you will get hosed.” I would like to know if there is a pro Bono atty that can assist me within PA. I have spent my entire life savings on saving our dream home from foreclosure and we’ll over $25k in attorney fees…

    Desperate in PA!

  29. Nicole Remsburg says:

    I forgot to add that his father makes > $100k annually and has taken care of his girlfriend and two children for the past seven years, but yet has not helped in anyway but for last year when he actually gave me $100 to buy him a pair of sneakers….hard to find size 16 sneakers let alone for $100, but I made it work. He also bought him a winter coat. These are the only things that he has provided for his son in seven years. I and my parents, have been able to pull it off. Even though I have zero earned income, I was told by the State that I don’t qualify for food benefits, I “make” $300 too much to be eligible.

    • Leslie Robinson says:

      Start by Filing an order of child support modification in the county where your divorce took place. Most courts/county have people who can help you complete the forms.

  30. Amy Gary says:

    I am the custodial parent of a beautiful 18 year old who is wheel chair bound and physically not mentally disabled child. The day she turned 18 the father called and stopped child support and has not paid dime after. He provides healthcare for my child but when asking to change her name for it to match medicaid he said I needed to choose his insurance or medicaid. He has not seen this child since she was 6 he does not understand the care and unending attention is needed for her. I want to file a motion so she is provided for and I with a family of my own cannot even return back to school to finish my career goal due to extensive care needed for her. He does make way more than I do and could provide for her while I take care of her. He refuses to pay anything even existing bills for he has refused to pay. I am at wits end and want to do something but all I read is that I should have before she turned 18. I applied for disabiltiy the monday after she turned 18 and as of this date she still doesnt recieve any monetary benefits. If you can advise me what is best it would be much appreciated.

  31. Kathy says:

    Hi my name is Kathy I have 11 years old son with special needs I’m married leaving in Michigan because of my husband income he dosent have a insurance so we are thinking of divorce but I don’t know where to start…do I need special attorney???We are on a good turn with my husband but not sure how does it work with specil need child what to expect…maybe you know good attorney in Michigan…. thanks Kathy

    • Melissa says:

      Hi Kathy you know ohio has grant funded ABA therapy . There is an Autism Center called Sail in Ohio near toledo you pay nothing you just have to live there its on the border of Michigan .

  32. Maria Rodriguez says:

    I am legally married and have a 4yr old down sydrome child, her father walked out and had committed 2 adulterous affairs , he left to flordia and he only makes attempt to visit our daughter once a year , he does pays child support and Alimony but doesn’t see her as suppose to , i have been her biggest advocate with research and unable to work due to the fact with her special needs . I informed her dad he needs to be more invovled , and he says nothing he can do …. he is the one that a bonded us , is there away I can take his rights away since he isnt there for support physically or mentally ? Plz I need your help regarding this matter !

  33. samantha says:

    I have a special needs son, he has severe brain damage, legally blind and has cp, he has been with me since he came home from the nicu and he has seizure disorder, i am goin through a divorce with his father and his father put in the divorce papers that he wants him, and he has never seen him or nothing and his father already has a new fiance any help, all my son knows is his mama and he is 24 hour care round the clock he eats every two hours and he has alot of care he needs that his father knows nothing about

  34. Hellen Damnation says:

    My child (we will call Sid) lived with me for 16 years of life. Dad was abusive; we divorced, I took the “high road” – He hated me more than he loved his child, I loved my child more than I hated him . . .

    At 16 1/2 Sid needed ( according to Sid) to live with dad, because it had been so long. . . (Broke my heart, but I did not fight, because I love Sid more than my own flesh and Sid wanted and deserved Dad’s love). Dad had spent 15 years having fun, lending no emotional, moral, physical, financial support to Sid. Dad earned $60K+ per year and finagled $15.00 per week in child support for years. Never “found” time to spend with Sid . . .

    Fast forward . . . Dad and his wife petition the court for conservatorship of person and estate (and do not notify me) of Sid who is about to turn 18, is extremely high functioning Asperger’s (maybe) – the man beat me and Sid has diagnosed but ignored PTSD) Sid’s IQ is over 140 . . .

    Dad and stepmom take all Sid’s income for about two years . . .

    A week ago dad and stepmom illegally threw Sid out – they gave Sid four hours to “get your sh*t and get out”. Needless to say, Sid came to stay with me. . .

    Last week they asked Sid to agree to pay for his phone plan with them (Sid agreed). Today they received the papers for revocation of conservatorship. Within two hours Sid’s phone was shut off. . .

    Sid is very hurt and my heart hurts . . .

  35. Hellen Damnation says:

    Sid’s dad and I divorced when Sid was 5.

    • Barbara Lahmon says:

      If your situation has not yet been resolved: you should report this situation to the fraud unit of IHSS immediately. They would be your best bet as they are the program directly involved in your son’s care and payment for same. Their fraud hotline number is 1-800-822-6222. Good luck!

  36. Martha Martinez says:

    I need help!!! I just found out that my ex husband is receiving IHSS hours to take care of my son. My son lives with me and seeds a few hours with his dad after school. I’m upset that dad is claiming hours that he hasn’t work and he is claiming the hours my son is with me at home. I already reported to the Medical Fraud and they are taking for ever. My son has multiple disabilities and my mother is the one that takes care of him and my ex is claiming those hours as he was working. Any one that could assist me, I would really appreciate it. Thanks

    • Barbara Lahmon says:

      Martha, if your situation has not yet been resolved: you should report this situation to the fraud unit of IHSS immediately. They would be your best bet as they are the program directly involved in your son’s care and payment for same. Their fraud hotline number is 1-800-822-6222. Good luck!

  37. jennifer says:

    my son had adhd and mood disorder he has not seen his biological father since he was 2 he is now 9 his father is a known violent felon and has issues himself, he wont pay support and is taking me to court for visitation witch we already had an order in place witch stated supervised he never attened any of them and now he is trying to change that order i was givin two weeks to hire a laywer because my husband now makes to much but yet we dont make enough to pay 2,500 to a lawyer can u please give me some guidance as to the laws of special needs children and visits in nys thank you

  38. Rosalyn says:

    Hello, my son is 8 years old and has Down Syndrome. I also have a 5 year old daughter and my husband and I are in the beginning stages of a divorce or separation. Either way I need help with trying to figure out about divorce and financially caring for my special needs child and my daughter. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

  39. Rachael says:

    My mom has not seen her son in over 9 years he has cerebral palsy. Our dad has custody. My mom has tried over and over just to talk to him. She misses him so much.
    My brother is a adult now he’s 24
    But there’s no way my mom can see him unless my dad agrees which he won’t
    It’s not fair to my brother or my mom

  40. Theresa Lawton says:

    I have two autistic girls they are 13 and 15 years old we libe in north charleston sc my husband abandoned us in 2009 the military stepped in for a few yrs and wrote up a separation agreement legal contract and I have not seen a dime since I know he works but I can’t afford a lawyer because my children are on disability and I can barely pay the bills I really need a lawyer if anyone can help me please contact me thank you and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year

  41. Annie Gutshall says:

    I have a question about my special needs son and my pending divorce and custody. I am and always have been the primary breadwinner and caregiver to my boys. Dad has a sometimes construction job, no benefits, no retirement, etc. is there a legal way to keep him from taking half of my retirement (to cash out and buy a truck and house) as his half of future care/support for our son? I have put every penny into my retirement because my son will need care as an adult, housing, etc. and I need that money to stay intact…

  42. Augustus Whitfield Jr. says:

    My mildly autistic son just turned 18. Its toxic between ex wife and I yet I have tried to create dialogue for nbregads to what life will be like when son turns 18. No response. Ex spouse does communicate regarding dr.vists and what not. I caught whiff several months ago that she would try to continue to collect child support past 18 and it’s coming to fruition as she wants to defer my son’s diploma. She wants guardianship of my son…..which means I will never see my son and still have to pay child support. I was going to file for guardianship but she beat me to it. The county I reside in is very biased toward the mother that it’s a reality they will give guardianship to my former spouse. Does anybody have any suggestions on how I can perhaps turn the tide? This is do unfair

  43. Erika says:

    I have a 10 year old daughter with Williams syndrome. Her father is not upholding his end of the custody arrangement and will be at least 10 days short of his 98 days this year. He will not be able to make them up and I gave him a chance to make up at least a few and he declined that chance. He complains that he has to find a babysitter when he works and has her, and tonight he told me when I said I was taking him to court again “you wanna play? Well then I will be dropping her off at 4 pm not 8 pm on Sundays from now on.” Yes this is screenshotted and will be in court to show that he used his CHILD as a pawn in a game that he wants to play. He never alerts me to problems, he has no part in her schooling, health care of anything, he barely asks. I do the best I can with the parenting guidelines, following them as I can because he works 2nd shift so he doesn’t pick her up until after 11 pm on Friday nights and then drops her off at 8 pm on Sundays so not even 4 full days per month and he still complains. He complains about the 4 weeks during summer and spring and fall break which are necessary for him to get his time in. He calls me when he has a problem and can’t find a babysitter, puts all the responsibility on me for everything. He asks me to help him do his taxes, do his papers for work, and many other things. I have helped in the past but no more. I am tired of being screwed over and I am more tired of watching my baby be hurt by him. As of right now if I call the court he will be held in contempt (as the last time we went to court the judge told him straight up that if he did NOT GET HIS TIME IN he would be held in contempt) which means he can go to jail and pay a hefty fine. He could lose his job. Abby gets SSI which will cover his support but something needs to be done to wake him up. He thinks he has me because the only recourse I have on him is at the end of the year if he doesn’t get his time in. Suggestions? He does not follow regulations, doesn’t keep track of when he is supposed to have her, I have to do everything. I am tired of doing it all and he only pays 71 a week in support. Seriously it doesn’t even cover half of her expenses. Then he asks me to pay for things if he doesn’t have money (and I don’t EVER have money). He makes more than me and pays 250 a month towards a house his dad owns. Nothing else. I pay 530 rent and 130 utilities and 100 for phone and internet. That’s all I have. And I barely make 1300 a month between support, SSI and my income. I work from home so I can be at home with her as much as possible. He never pays for anything other than support. He doesn’t help with school things, clothing, extras, never offers. He has asked my mom for loans, he even asked a babysitter he had JUST MET THAT NIGHT for 20 dollars. She is the mother of my boyfriends half-sister so I know her and I was mortified. I don’t have money for an attorney, I am barely surviving as it is. What are my options???? I don’t know if there are special needs attorneys out there that would help me? I need someone who is very well-versed in child custody laws.

  44. jennifer says:

    my divorced finalized this month after being married to an abusive major depressive/bipolar man for 18 years. we have three kids who 2 are bipolar and the other is autistic/severe major depressive disorder. they are 7, 10, 17. I actually found out today after talking to him for the first time in 11 months, since the day he left that the reason he abandoned me and the kids is that he wanted to have a normal family and hated me for having disabled children. he resented them and wished that we had divorced 15 years prior so the youngest did not exist. he refuses to spend hardly any time with them, etc. and instead parties and spends time like a 15 year and wants to start life over with someone normal. in the mean time I am attempting to back to school for a masters degree. so frustrated right now that a person could dump their kids because they are different.

  45. lucas says:

    my name is lucas and i have went thru court to get guardianship my foster parent got guardianship over me and i planned on moving out when i was 18 but she put me in special needs without my consent and put me into the program in court by lying and saying i am disabled and i cant live on my own but she did it because she wants cash what should i do i’m not disabled and stupid can i go to court to cancel special needs?????? somebody just help me i need somebody to tell me a answer

  46. Michael says:

    When my ex is granted full guardianship, am I still required to pay child support? My special needs daughter turned 18 last September 2016. My divorce settlement obligates me to child support for her till she graduates from high school up to age 20 which ever occurs first. After my daughter turned 18, my ex filed for full guardianship and conservatorship of my daughter. Doing this strips me of my rights per the divorce settlement e.g. court ordered visitation. I am told my ex will have total control of my daughter and can refuse visitation if my ex does not want her to visit me.

  47. Whiting wicker says:

    I have disabled children by my current marriage. I’m paying alimony to my ex. As a result my disabled children are suffering. The court said I should have thought about that before remarrying and having more kids. Further the court has said it will throw me in jail if I don’t pay the aklimony. Further the court said that’s the meaning of responsibility. I asjked what about responsibilty to my kids? The judge adjourned the hearing. Comment?

  48. Sophia says:

    Hi, I am not divorced with my spouse yet but we are living separately for the past 5 yrs. My son who’s now 10 yrs old now was under my custody for past last 8 months. Due some financial crisis requested his father to support for his education & medical expenses but his father denied saying, only if the child is under his custody he would do so, otherwise he will not. This puts my life in worst situation & forced to leave my son to his father. But still now i do not hold access to my child, nor a contact he completely ignored me. someone kindly help me in this matter.

  49. L says:

    My special-needs son (medium-functioning autism, epilepsy) just turned 18. His dad and I became his legal guardians shortly before he turned 18. I have been a stay-at-home mother for 30 years and have trusted my husband to take care of the finances and save. (Colossal mistake.) Now my marriage is falling apart, and I am learning that he has not provided for us in the way he claims. We are not penniless, but I do not think he has set up resources properly for the long-term care of our son. The realization that I must now go back to work after 30 years, that I may be leaving my husband, and that our son’s financial position is far from secure makes me want to throw up or drive off a cliff — it is the nightmare that wasn’t supposed to happen. Where in the world do I even start?

  50. J t says:

    Hi, unfortunately during my divorce I could not get the small town attorneys to address my daughter separate from her brothers. We incur thousands in medical bills each year, my ex is saying I am the reason she is so expensive. He said since I am remarried he can not afford 35 percent and not paying. He went on to tell me if I talk him tho court he could lose his job. Small town USA, in tennessee attorney says it will cost me more in court then I will get him to pay. Any suggestions… he owes around 4000 for this year and still 2000 last year.

  51. Brenda says:

    I draw social security spousal benefits for caring for my disabled adult son. If my husband and I divorce, will I lose the spousal benefit?

  52. Sue says:

    I am in the middle of a divorce with 3 kids (school age). my youngest has CP (wheelchair bound and high tone that enables him to dress himself, get food, clothes, etc on his own…bathroom…) We moved out of last house to find or build one accesible for him. we build and have all the bells and whistles here. he has done some manipulating things like accumulating very high debt and then (just before filing for divorce) refinanced the house and rolled all our debt into our mortgage (leaving it with no equity) and put so much money into this house to make it glamorous that (I’m sure it was on purpose…..the money should have been spent on our son) there would be no way I could afford it. Also just before filing he bought himself an (used) BMW ($24,000ish)….filed 2 days later. Did this right after we invested in a power wheelchair for our son. We where going to put a carrier on the back of our van but realized it was too heavy for the van. Now I need a wheelchair accessible van as well. Is there a way to still get the house and/or a van. I am working but I just work at the school as a special ed. asst. hour position….not making much. But I needed to get a job that I would be able to be home when he is home.

  53. Jason Fuller says:

    I need someone to contact me about my divorce. My wife filed for divorce while I was deployed in Afghanistan. Wee have 2 minor children one that is special needs. She posted on Facebook that we were getting divorced and that she had started seeing someone. I have been informed by my children that she had him staying in my Houser while I was gone also. I need help now and fast.

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