Having a child with disabilities brings with it certain responsibilities that parents of non-disabled children won't typically have to face. In some cases, parents must provide care for a child even after his or her 18th birthday. When parents of an adult disabled child divorce, custodial circumstances can be difficult. Here are a few things you need to know to make sure that you and your former spouse can provide the proper level of care for your child even after a divorce.
Special Needs Trusts
You can provide money for supplemental needs, such as clothing or personal items by creating a special needs trust. Creating this trust means the money is paid out by a trustee for specific needs your child might have instead of placing the money in a bank account in your child's name. This is important, as setting up payments for your child in this manner won't disqualify him or her from governmental assistance programs. You can have your family law attorney set up the trust now for continued care for your child, or you can put the instructions for the trust in your will.
If your child needs to have guardianship appointed because he or she cannot live independently, you may want to consider applying for co-guardianship before the court. This ensures that you and your spouse can both make decisions for your child, and there won't be a gap in guardianship should something happen to either one of you. Your family law attorney can help you to file the paperwork and iron out any details between you and your former spouse surrounding where your child will live and any financial concerns you may have for your child's care. You can seek sole guardianship of your child as well, but your spouse can raise an objection in court. This would mean that the guardianship would then possibly be decided by a jury trial instead of by the judge.
Physical Custody Arrangements
You won't need to file a petition with the court for custody if your child is over the age of 18, but you may want to sit down with your family law attorney to create a visitation and care schedule that works for you, your former spouse and your adult child. While you won't be going before a judge to determine custody as with a traditional custody arrangement, having your lawyer with you can help you and your former spouse to work through any disagreements you might have to come up with the plan that benefits everyone. If you and your ex will be co-guardians, having an arrangement in writing for physical custody and visitation can also make it easier for therapists and in-home healthcare workers to know who to talk to each day about your child's medical and physical needs.
Your disabled adult child may have a difficult time dealing with your divorce. Planning for his or her financial future and well-being can go a long way toward keeping your family strong, even in the event of a divorce.