Many divorcing parents spend countless hours negotiating the terms of a parenting plan, but they regularly fail to plan for the services and expenses associated with raising their special needs child. Parents of special needs children incur expenses related to the child’s medical care and education including, but not limited to, prescription medication, regular visits to pediatricians and pediatric specialists, occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, group therapy, and counseling.
Some parents are able to adequately address their child’s educational special needs through school-provided means, such as an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a 504 Plan, or other intervention programs. Other parents decide that their child’s special needs will be better addressed at a private school or through home schooling.
While comprehensive insurance plans and school-provided assistance can help reduce the financial burden, most parents of special needs children incur more medical and educational expenses than other similarly situated parents. Divorcing parents of special needs children should discuss the typical costs to help their special needs child to make an informed decision about distribution of those costs.
Parents often agree to share medical and education expenses on a pro-rata basis. However, Georgia law allows parents to consider both extraordinary educational expenses and extraordinary medical expenses as deviations when calculating child support. O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i)(2)(J). Under the law, extraordinary educational expenses include, but are not limited to, “tuition, room and board, lab fees, books, fees, and other reasonable and necessary expenses associated with special needs education or private elementary and secondary schooling that are appropriate to the parent’s financial abilities and to the lifestyle of the child if the parents and the child were living together.” O.C.G.A. § 19-6-15(i)(2)(J)(i). This deviation must be supported by “evidence of prior or anticipated expenses” and must be shown on the child support worksheet.
While parents may agree on the child support deviation necessary for their child, the agreement is subject to Court approval. The Court must determine if the deviation is in the best interest of the child or children for whom the support is provided, and the Court will look at factors including the needs of the child and the resources of the parents to make this determination.
If parents do not agree on the types or amount of expenses, a Court-ordered deviation to the total child support amount may reduce ongoing tensions and may set the groundwork for a health co-parenting relationship in the future.
Raising a child is hard work, and parents of children with special needs face extra stress, challenges, and obstacles. If you are a parent of a special needs child facing divorce, educate your divorce lawyer about your child’s needs.
About Raegan M. King: Attorney Raegan M. King helps parents of special needs children to develop education plans to meet their needs. Raegan works closely with parents, providers, and educational consultant to aggressively advocate for a child’s education and rights. Raegan takes the time to understand a child’s needs to help develop and fight for a plan for academic achievement.
Raegan graduated from the Harvard Law School in 2006 and opened The Law Office of Raegan M. King, A Limited Liability Company in 2009. She started her firm because she wanted to provide each client with individualized, personal service. Raegan’s clients bypass the mega-law firm quagmire and communicate directly and regularly with her as she walks alongside them through the legal process.
Please call (678-217-5555) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Raegan to schedule a consultation to discuss your child’s needs.