While divorce is difficult for families with children of all ages and needs, it can be even more complicated for families with disabled children. Parents of children with disabilities may feel abandoned and afraid while going through divorce because of the added complexities of supporting their children. In addition, disabled children may be more emotionally traumatized by divorce.
Strategies for Stability
Kristyn Crow, a writer specializing in parenting disabled children and divorce, writes that it is most important to keep a predictable routine during divorce. She writes that a structured visitation schedule is essential so that children with disabilities can prepare for visits in advance.
Divorced parents of a child with significant disabilities must decide not only who will have legal and physical custody of the child, but also who will become the child's guardian when the child reaches the age of majority. When children turn 18, they are legally adults, but disabled children may be unable to be independent or make certain important decisions for themselves.
For this reason, divorced parents of disabled children should decide early on which of them will become the guardian of their child. This guardian will be legally authorized to make important medical and financial decisions for the child. The guardian will also make personal decisions for the child, such as where the child will live.
Disabled children of divorced parents will also require additional financial support. Common law in most states has recognized a duty of divorced parents to continue to support their children even after the children have reached adulthood. This is true even in some cases when the children are also receiving disability benefits from the state. The court may order support depending on the severity of the disability and whether the children need supervision, medical care or housing.
In Illinois, the court must look to Section 513 of Illinois' Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act when determining whether to order support for disabled non-minor and minor disabled children. This law allows for the support of children with mental or physical disabilities after those children have attained the age of majority.
When determining how much support should be granted, the court will examine factors such as the financial resources of both parents, the standard of living the child enjoyed during the marriage, the financial resources of the child, and the child's academic performance.
If you have questions about the support of your disabled child, consult an Illinois attorney for advice.