Child Custody for Special Needs Children
While any child custody case is emotionally charged, when a child involved in a custody dispute has special needs, the process of determining custody can be especially complex and stressful. Although most custody arrangements only last until the child reaches the age of majority, under Texas law, when a child has special needs, custody can be extended past the age of 18 if the court determines that it is appropriate based on the facts of the case. If you are in the process of determining custody of a child with special needs, you should seek the assistance of a knowledgeable family law attorney to ensure that your child’s long-term needs are properly evaluated. The Dallas child custody lawyers at the McClure Law Group have the skills and experience to aid you in seeking a custody arrangement for your special needs child that will give you the peace of mind that your child will receive adequate support and care for as long as necessary.Special Needs Defined
The Texas Family Law Code does not define what qualifies as a special need or disability. Generally, a child is considered to have special needs when he or she has a physical, cognitive, or emotional disability that requires the child to receive additional care or supervision.Factors to Consider in Determining Custody of a Special Needs Child
In all Texas custody cases, the most important factor in determining a custody arrangement is what is in the best interest of the child involved. While it is always helpful for the parents to come to an agreement regarding custody, it is especially advisable in a case involving a child with special needs, since the parents would have a much deeper knowledge of the child’s current and future needs than anyone else. If the parents do come to an agreement, they should reduce the agreement to writing and file it with the court. If, upon review, the court finds the agreement to be in the best interest of the child, it will approve the agreement.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement, evidence regarding how the child’s daily life is affected by his or her disability will be helpful to show which custody arrangement will be in the child’s best interest. In some cases, if there is a dispute as to the care that the child needs, it may be necessary to engage an expert to prove not only which treatment is required but also which parent should retain legal custody regarding decisions affecting the child’s medical care.
In addition to requiring more care than a child with typical needs, it may be more difficult for a child with special needs to adapt to the changes brought by divorce or a change in the custody arrangement. As a result, it can be particularly important in a custody dispute involving a special needs child to maintain a familiar routine. In many cases, this may mean that it is in the child’s best interest for the primary caregiver to have primary physical custody of the child. Regardless of whether one parent is granted primary custody, however, it is important for both parents to have continued access to the child, not only for the child’s benefit but also for the benefit of the parents.Custody and Support Past the Age of Majority
Under Texas law, a court can order custody and support of a child with special needs even after the child becomes an adult. If the court finds that a child has a physical or mental disability that requires him or her to have substantial care and supervision, the court can issue an order defining each parent’s rights to continued custody and access to the child. Additionally, if one parent has primary physical custody or guardianship over an adult child with special needs, the other parent may be required to pay child support. A court can even issue an order requiring support to be paid indefinitely, if the child has a significant mental or physical disability that impairs his or her ability to earn a living. A court will only impose an obligation on a parent to provide financial support for an adult child if the child’s disability existed prior to the age of majority.Meet With an Experienced Child Custody Attorney in the Dallas Area
In any custody dispute, it is important to develop a custody arrangement that will best serve the needs of the child, but when the child involved in a custody dispute has special needs, defining parental rights and obligations can be complicated. If you are in the process of defining your right to custody of a child with special needs, you should seek the assistance of a seasoned family law attorney to ensure that the custody arrangement ultimately determined is in the best interest of your child. The attorneys at the McClure Law Group are mindful of the heightened emotions caused by a dispute over custody of a child with special needs and can work diligently to protect your parental rights. To set up a consultation, contact us at 214.692.8200 or via our online form.