In California divorces, child support calculations are based largely upon the parents’ respective incomes and custody rights. However, healthcare, education, and other costs can factor in as well, and calculating these costs – presently and in the future – often takes on heightened importance for parents of children with special needs.
Key Considerations Regarding Child Support for Children with Special Needs
Childcare is generally more expensive for children with special needs, as care providers must be appropriately trained and experienced, and facilities must have the necessary resources on hand to ensure children’s engagement, safety, and wellbeing. Even for parents who stay home full-time, there will likely come a day when additional in-home support becomes a necessity.
Health Insurance and Medical Care
Maintaining quality health insurance for children with special needs is critical. But, even with insurance, many of the costs associated with caring for children with special needs will have to be fully-funded by the parents. Child support calculations should take into consideration the cost of ongoing health insurance coverage as well as the out-of-pocket expenses associated with disabled children’s short-term and long-term care.
Other Care-Related Expenses
In addition to child care and medical expenses, parents of children with special needs will often face numerous other financial costs during their children’s developmental years. These can include costs for counseling and behavioral therapy, accommodations for transportation and daily living needs, and meals tailored to their children’s unique nutritional requirements.
Private Educational Expenses
For children who are unable to adapt to ordinary public education, the costs of private education may need to be factored into divorcing parents’ child support calculations as well. Children with special needs may require home tutoring or private lessons from their early years through secondary education – and the costs associated with tutoring and private schooling should be apportioned between the parents appropriately during the divorce process.
Qualification for State and Federal Benefits
Many families rely on disability benefit programs to help cover their children’s financial needs, and parents who did not qualify for these programs while married may become eligible once their incomes are separated from their former spouses’.
But, there are stringent rules around these programs, which include Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If not structured appropriately, child support payments can prevent divorced parents from securing state and federal benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled. As a result, careful planning is required so that parents can take advantage of these programs while still crafting an appropriate child support payment plan.
Child Support Beyond Age 18
Finally, while parents’ child support obligations typically end at age 18 or graduation from high school, there is an exception for parents whose children have qualifying disabilities. Under California law, parents can be required to provide financial support for children with special needs indefinitely.
Calculating Child Support in Your California Divorce
When considering all of the relevant factors, it is easy to see how establishing child support for children with special needs can quickly become a complex (and often contested) aspect of the divorce process. Divorcing parents in California need assurance that their children’s needs will be met in the future.
Discuss Your Child Support Questions with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer
If you are preparing for a divorce in the San Diego area and have questions about child support, contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates. To request a confidential initial consultation, call our North County, CA law offices at 619-299-7100 or submit our online request form today.