Autism and Divorce

Feb 13, 2014

While there is little empirical evidence connecting autism in children to the divorce of the child’s parents, it is without saying that the situation is stressful. Even without the factor of special needs added, divorce is a long and tedious process.

Of course one of the main things you’ll think of when the word divorce comes up in conversation is lawyers and legal proceedings, and possibly even countless arguments. Also, you’ll start thinking about the emotional effects the divorce will have on your children. But what you should be focusing on is the planning that needs to happen for your autistic child now that your decisions will be split, as well as many assets.

Special Needs Planning

Aside from all divorce proceedings, there needs to be time allocated to planning out the divorce for your special needs child. Financial and medical decisions will need to be made, and any insurance discrepancies will need clarification. Here are some of the ways you can start preparing now for your autistic child’s future.

Insurance- Ensure that your child is taken care of should anything happen to you or an ex-spouse. Decide which life insurance policy will cover your child best in the future, and be sure that whichever life insurance policy you choose will be able to cover child support for the rest of your child’s life should anything happen.

If your child is not able to function on their own past 18 years of age, you or an ex-spouse will need to apply for guardianship or Power of Attorney of your child, and he or she will need to be included on a health insurance plan under you or your ex-spouse past the state’s age limit.

Medical Decisions- Between you and an ex-spouse, you will need to decide who will be in charge of any medical decisions including treatments, diet plans, vaccinations and/or hospitalization.

Be sure that even though one person is in charge of the decisions, the other guardian should document their support of these decisions so any medical decisions cannot be argued later should a custody disagreement occur. While your ex-spouse doesn’t always have to personally agree with the decision, they must follow it.

A medical decision-maker is solely responsible for the ward, and no medical actions can be made without the consent of the decision-maker.

Financial Planning- One of the best ways to prepare your child’s financial future is to consider creating a Special Needs Trust. Money in this trust will not interfere with your child’s eligibility for federal benefits if the right precautions are made. Although you and your ex-spouse are in a time of separation, this is a positive way to come together for your child and combine your assets.

Write a will that names the Special Needs Trust as the beneficiary of life insurance policy and estate, rather than your special needs child. This will prevent your special needs child from becoming the beneficiary of your assets and preventing them from being able to receive governmental benefits.

Any planning for your special needs child throughout your divorce should be handled with great care in ample time. These type of legal precautions should not be done yourself. Disability laws vary from state to state and the best way to get the proper help is to hire an attorney with specialties in handling special needs cases.

The attorneys at The Law Office of Christina Lesher are experts in special needs trusts and establishing guardianship. Contact us today at (713) 529-5900  if you’re going through a divorce with a special needs child.

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