How to Support Your Special Needs Child Through a Divorce

Whether a child is severely disabled or has moderate learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia or auditory processing issues, their ability to thrive depends on continuity and stability.  Thus, parents who are going through a divorce with a special needs child should consider how best to support continuity and stability to foster the best possible outcome for their child with special needs.

Positive and Supportive Co-parenting

Positive and supportive co-parenting is critical to achieving the best outcome for children of divorce. This is especially true if your child has special needs.  Children with disabilities suffer from a host of issues such as anxiety, lack of self-esteem, inability to focus, depression and bullying.  Positive and supportive co-parenting means that both parents are involved in planning and participating in activities, educational support networks and medical/therapeutic treatments for the special needs child.  Imagine a situation where both parents employ the same tools and techniques in both households so that the special needs child has consistency while living in two homes.  This requires significant communication and trust between the parents.

Co-parenting Therapy

If you are in a situation where co-parenting feels impossible, see if you can meet with a co-parenting counselor who specializes in high conflict divorce and special needs children.  A qualified professional therapist should be able to assist you in achieving more parity between households.

When Co-parenting Fails, a Parenting Coordinator is Helpful

If parents agree to use a parenting coordinator, the parenting coordinator will help the parents navigate important day-to-day decisions that need to be made to best serve a child of divorced parents. This is particularly helpful when a child has special needs as there is often ongoing adjustments to educational and medical programs and structures.  A parenting coordinator generally will help facilitate and agreement between the parents and, if no agreement is reached, the parenting coordinator can make recommendations or orders regarding the disputed issues.  This process allows the parties to resolve smaller, ongoing issues in a more expeditious manner than going through the court process.

Determining a Custody Schedule that is Best for Your Special Needs Child

It is likely that a child with special needs will benefit from having consistency and continuity between households.  Often, this means compromise between the parents regarding scheduling of custodial time.  There are many ways to maximize the time that a child spends with each parent without creating disruption for the child’s academic, social and emotional health.  Working with both a mental health professional and an attorney to help craft a schedule that would work best for a special needs child is critical to the long-term emotional, social and academic health of the child.

Categories: Child Support, Divorce

About the Author

Rachel Castrejon opened her own law practice immediately after graduating from Loyola Law School and passing the California Bar exam in 1998. When she first opened her practice, she handled a variety of cases including wrongful termination, criminal appeals and family law matters. Ultimately, she chose to practice exclusively in the area of Family Law because she likes helping her clients through a very emotional process. Rachel’s goal is to help her clients through one of the most difficult times in their lives – the breakup of their family. Rachel understands the importance of achieving a resolution that is good for the entire family, particularly the children involved.

Learn more about Rachel

Disclaimer: The information and examples provided herein are based on the laws and regulations at the time of writing. Prior to deciding how to hold title in your property, you should consult with an accountant, probate attorney or family law attorney to determine the best way to hold your property for the purpose you want to accomplish.

5 Ways to Protect Your Divorce Property Equalizing Payment

Frequently, divorcing couples agree to divide property pursuant to a settlement agreement. Often, one of the parties is obligated to pay the other party an “equalizing payment.” The equalizing payment is the means by which both parties leave the marriage with substantially equal assets. Property division pursuant to a divorce agreement is a non-taxable event and, therefore, the party receiving the equalizing payment will not need to pay taxes on the amount received.

Equalizing Payment Pitfalls

Many times, an the parties agree to the equalizing payment being paid in installments over time. While this may be a convenient method of making a significant payment in comes with some pitfalls for the recipient party.

  1. The payment(s) do not survive bankruptcy.
    The party who is to receive the equalizing payment should consult with counsel to determine the best way to protect the equalizing payment in the event that the payor files for bankruptcy and seeks to discharge the equalizing payment pursuant to the bankruptcy.
  2. Lack of payment on schedule causes unwanted attorney’s fees and costs.
    If the payor does not make timely payments, the recipient would have to file an action with the court to enforce the terms of the agreement. This can be costly. Also, if the payor simply does not have the money to make the payments, an enforcement action may have little economic gain.
  3. The recipient does not have the benefit of the funds at the time of the divorce.
    If a payment plan is agreed upon, the recipient of the equalizing payment does not get the benefit of the funds until all of the equalizing payments are made. This deprives the recipient of the ability to use, invest of receive interest on the funds.

There are ways to protect against some the pitfalls described above.

  1. Consider agreeing to a support order that is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  2. Require a deed of trust against real property assigned to the payor. The deed of trust should secure the entire amount of the equalizing payment.
  3. Require interest to be paid on installment payments until paid in full.
  4. Specify remedies for failure to timely pay (i.e. sale of property, liquidation of
  5. If bankruptcy seems like a possibility, consult with a bankruptcy attorney.

It is very important to consider all the ramifications of property settlement prior to signing a divorce and property settlement. The information provided above is just a general overview of some of the issues that can arise. Each situation is unique and needs an independent evaluation of the terms of the settlement agreement to determine the best way to secure a property settlement.

Categories: Divorce, Property Division

About the Author

Rachel Castrejon opened her own law practice immediately after graduating from Loyola Law School and passing the California Bar exam in 1998. When she first opened her practice, she handled a variety of cases including wrongful termination, criminal appeals and family law matters. Ultimately, she chose to practice exclusively in the area of Family Law because she likes helping her clients through a very emotional process. Rachel’s goal is to help her clients through one of the most difficult times in their lives – the breakup of their family. Rachel understands the importance of achieving a resolution that is good for the entire family, particularly the children involved.

Learn more about Rachel

Disclaimer: The information and examples provided herein are based on the laws and regulations at the time of writing. Prior to deciding how to hold title in your property, you should consult with an accountant, probate attorney or family law attorney to determine the best way to hold your property for the purpose you want to accomplish.