Jeff spoke with Evonne Hopkins, a family law attorney with Hopkins Law Firm located in Raleigh. They discussed the unique legal issues parents of special needs children face when divorcing. Evonne responded to the following questions…
What are some considerations that need to be discussed when there is a special needs child in the middle of a divorce?
We need to identify and understand the child’s special needs and what he or she requires in order to thrive and succeed. Each case is different. For example, if a child is autistic, and does not handle a change in routine well, we are going to tailor a custody schedule to make transitions and changes as smooth and as infrequent as possible. Whereas, if we have a child that has a disability that limits mobility and accessibility, requiring accommodations in the home (such as ramps and wider doors), then we are going to make sure that we advocate that the child reside in the home that has those comforts or that the other parent is able to provide the necessary accommodations at another location.
Many times special needs children have needs that surpass their childhood. They do not outgrow them and are dependent on their parents for their entire lives.
What are the things that have to be considered with an adult special needs child that differ from a minor child with special needs?
Child support typically ends at 18 years and with the completion of high school, but there are circumstances in North Carolina that allow child support until age twenty-two. Also, if a child will still need a high level of care into adulthood, it’s important to assess the need when dividing the marital estate. If the caretaker parent needs the house because the home can provide the necessary accommodations for the child, or the child’s need prevents a parent from working full time, we will most likely ask the court to consider an uneven distribution of the assets and a longer duration or amount of spousal support.
To contact Evonne with any family law questions or for additional information, please call (919) 268-4070 or visit the firm’s website: www.raleighlawfirm.net.