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Custody and Support Issues for Special Needs Children

If you are the parent of a special needs child and you’re contemplating divorce, your child’s well-being must weigh heavily on your mind. To make sure that your child’s needs are met during and after your divorce, you must set reasonable goals for the divorce process. You want to make the transition as smooth as possible to limit any disruption to your child’s routine. You also want to make sure your divorce decree clearly delineates each parent’s responsibilities for your child’s health and welfare.

With regards to custody, courts may favor the parent who has been the child’s primary caretaker. If both parents have been active in the child’s life and have similar insight into the child’s needs, joint custody is possible provided the parents demonstrate an ability to work cooperatively, putting the child’s needs ahead of their own. But, if the child has a rare condition and one parent has specialized knowledge or training in the child’s care, the court could favor sole physical custody for that parent.

The next issue is support, which can be quite thorny when it comes to a child’s special needs. Minnesota has guidelines for basic child support based on the parents’ combined income. However, special needs children often have expenses above and beyond those of typical children their age. The custodial parent may petition the court under 2015 Minnesota Statutes §518A.43 to enhance child support based on “the extraordinary financial needs and resources, physical and emotional condition, and educational needs of the child to be supported.”

Support can be further complicated if you decide that as the sole custodial parent of a special needs child, you can no longer work outside the home. Your spouse could accuse you of taking unfair advantage of the situation and creating an unnecessary financial burden. The court looks at the totality of the circumstances, including your work history and the availability of day care, in deciding whether it is fair to place more financial responsibility on your spouse. However, in matters of support and custody, the court rules based on what it perceives to be the best interests of the child.

If you’d like further information on issues of custody and support for special needs children, schedule a free consultation with our family law attorneys at Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A.

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  • "Tori had a thorough understanding of my situation and made excellent recommendations to resolve my concerns. She was persistent on communication and handled everything in a very timely manner. I would definitely hire her again in the future if needed." - M.K.

  • "With Appelhof, Pfeifer & Hart, P.A., it is like having a family physician. They are all knowledgeable, thorough, comforting, and the only call I need to make for all my legal needs for many years to come. No matter what the matter, I totally trust their advice and commitment to me and my family." - J.N.

  • "Mary from APH Law helped me thru a difficult divorce. She and the entire staff was there for me every step of the way helping me on what to do next. They listened to what I wanted and helped me achieve what matter the most to me in the divorce settlement." - Dana C.

  • "I chose APH after my initial consultation with Mary. I felt my best interest would be represented. The entire process went excellent, the attorneys and staff communicated effectively and efficiently with me throughout the process as they needed to. Being new to the legal process and verbiage, they walked me and talked me through the next steps and the jargon, I felt completely comfortable and represented. I hope I never have to use legal services again but if I do I will call Mary at APH Law and know that I will be taken care of." - Jeff M.

  • "Divorce is a time of emotion and stress. Mary Pfeifer , My lawyer was professional and compassionate. She was very informative through the process. Her insight helped me in my decisions. She worked hard to obtain a settlement which was fair to both parties. Though, I hope I won't need her help again. It is reassuring to know a good person that is willing to help." - Rod S.

  • "I first came to Ms. Jacquelyn Lutz of Appelhof, Pfeifer and Hart in October of 2016. It was definitely the worst time in my life and she compassionately spoke with me about my options. Ms. Lutz thoroughly explained the laws, statutes, process and what to expect going forward. What was supposed to be one case, turned into three intricate cases that took a huge toll on me and my family. Ms. Lutz represented me in court on all three cases with a vast knowledge of the laws and how to proceed accordingly. During all three cases she kept me informed, calm, gave me resources to utilize, and (most important) gave me a realistic view of what may come next. Ms. Lutz knew each case required a great deal of knowledge and creative thinking on how to legally proceed forward with each case. My family and friends are forever grateful for the amazing representation by Ms. Lutz. I highly recommend Ms. Lutz for anyone needing or considering superb representation for any kind of family law. " - M.H.

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