Parents of a special needs child face many challenges while raising and nurturing their child. Many marriages falter and end in divorce due to the stressful demands required of parents with a special needs child. The stressors and emotional pressure that exists prior to the initiation of a divorce frequently accelerates during the divorce process. A special needs child is seriously affected by their parental decisions made during a divorce.
A divorce does not bring out the best in any couple. In the case of a special needs child, thoughtful and prudent care of the child should always be the main objective of both parents so the child knows that he/she is loved by both parents and is not at risk. A special needs child will experience serious emotional and behavioral problems during this time becoming more vulnerable and not knowing what is happening in life. The child is often afraid that he/she is losing Mom and Dad due to false and misplaced self-imposed guilt.
Many parents have already struggled with questions surrounding their child’s special needs such as correct diagnoses or the validly of treatments for their child’s conditions. During serious custody battles, such concerns become the focus of intense parental conflicts.
Some of the more serious concerns are:
A child’s reactions to overly permissive or excessively rigid parenting
Use and dosage of prescribed medicines for a diagnosed problem
Proper diagnosis being made by a competent professional
Whether a professional label and diagnosis will be noted in school records
Whether a child be placed in special education classes for leaning or emotional disabilities. Whether one parent is so occupied with the special need child that the parent has lost perspective on how to best manage the child
Often one parent accepts a child’s diagnosis given by the specialist and actively advocates for the child, while the other parent may remain in denial of the child’s obvious needs. Which parent is actually and consistently working in the child’s best interests?
Special efforts are needed when setting up possession schedules for your special needs child. Both parents must understand the nature of the child’s physical/emotional problems and the level that the child can function. When the child spends time in each parent’s home, both parents must reasonably work together and agree on a parenting approach that addresses the child’s needs.
When parents cannot agree upon the child’s actual needs and course of care, the court may appoint a specialist to conduct a complete evaluation of the child. From this evaluation the specialist will offer specific opinions to the parents and court regarding the nature of the child’s special needs and specifically address these needs.
In a divorce involving a special needs child many joint decisions are critical to and impact a child’s self-esteem. Other family issues and problems may need to temporally be put aside between the parents to assure a special needs child will fully receive the attention needed. We suggest that in the divorce decree a parenting plan be included setting out specific provisions for the care of the child.
Some suggested items to include in this Plan would be:
Can the child be cared for in the home or an outside facility and how would these costs be covered?
Medical, educational, and therapeutic interventions and decision making authority
Treatments not covered by insurance. Who is responsible as to the authority and cost?
Working with the child’s school to implement plans for the educational needs of the child.
Care decisions on parents’ ability to work outside the home with a special needs child
Handling of Lifetime care and support and the cost necessary for the special needs child
Divorce can be frustrating, confusing, and resentful. Divorce is never a pleasant experience even in the most amicable terms. It is important to know what you are in for when a divorce is filed. An original petition will be filed, and your spouse must be served with a process server.
After service of the original petition, the Petitioner may file for a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) to protect the child and marital estate. Once a TRO is granted by the District Judge, a temporary order hearing will be set within 14 days. This temporary order hearing is extremely important and will determine the direction of the case.
Temporary Order hearings are usually condensed to 20 minutes a side depending on the complexities of the case. Within this 20 minutes, you will have to put on evidence for your entire case regarding custody of the children, management of the marital estate, and any other considerations such as receivership of a business.
After the temporary orders hearing, the case will dive into full throttle litigation. Discovery on both sides is usually conducted including interrogatories, admissions, and production of documentations. The documents that are usually requested consists of bank statements, retirement pensions, social media pages, text messages, and emails. Each case requires specific Discovery requests that are narrowly tailored to the facts presented. Discovery can last months and usually follow with motions to compel and sanctions. In highly contested cases the rigors of discovery and compiling documentation can be brutal.
During the Discovery phase, Depositions may be warranted. Depositions consists of your attorney questioning your spouse and any other witnesses that are relevant to the case for impeachment purposes. Depositions are necessary if the case will go to a jury, because impeachment of your spouse is a necessity to prove your truthfulness.
Mediation is, more often than not, mandatory in Courts, but this is the general rule. Certain Courts in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Collin county do not require mandatory mediation. Each Court has its own rules of procedure and requirements. If the Mediation fails to produce a settlement between you and your spouse, then the only thing left is trial.
Depending on the complexities of the case and assets, a trial can last half a day or be a three-day trial. Most trials are before the District Judge. Certain facts may give rise to a jury trial but a jury trial is more costly and can take up more time. After the trial is complete the parties will have to wait for a ruling. This can take days to months depending on the case and jurisdiction.
When the final ruling is given to all parties, the Judge will charge one party to create a final order that will be submitted to the Court. This can give rise to more litigation depending on the interpretation of the Judge’s rulings by both parties. Finally, when both parties agree to a final order or the Judge determines which version of the final order is proper, then the case will be over.
Divorce can be a painful process that lasts 6 months to three years depending on the circumstances and the nature of the parties involved. If you are about to file for a Divorce in the DFW metroplex call Nacol Law Firm so that you have an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests throughout the process.
Dallas Fathers Rights Divorce Attorney
Nacol Law Firm PC
Texas spousal maintenance can be a useful and effective tool in a divorce. A spouse lacking sufficient property or the means to provide for his/her minimum reasonable needs, may have awarded additional funds from the other spouse during the divorce and after to help rebuild his/her life following their divorce.
In September of 2011, the Texas Legislature revised and modified the requirements for spousal maintenance including the limits on amounts and duration of time allowed.
The eligibility requirements of the Texas spousal maintenance law is still considered one of the more restrictive spousal maintenance laws in the U.S.
To be able to be awarded Spousal Maintenance (statutory term for spousal support or alimony) you must be married and the spouse seeking support must lack sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s “minimum reasonable needs”. Also one of the following is required:
The recipient must be unable to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs because of an incapacitating mental or physical disability.
The marriage lasted for 10 years or longer and the recipient lacks the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for his or her minimum reasonable needs.
The recipient is the custodian of a child of the marriage of any age who requires substantial care and personal supervision because of a physical or mental disability that prevents the spouse from earning sufficient income to provide for the spouse’s minimum reasonable needs.
The person ordered to pay support was convicted of or received deferred jurisdiction for an act of family violence during the pendency of the suit or within two years of the date the suit was filed.
The Maximum Amount of spousal maintenance the courts may award is $5,000 per month, although it is still limited to 20 percent of the Payer’s average Gross Monthly Income.
The Maximum Duration of Time for spousal maintenance is:
Five years if the marriage is 10 years or less and the eligibility for spousal maintenance is established by an act that constitutes family violence.
Five years if the length of marriage is at least 10 years but no more than 20 years.
Seven years if the marriage length was at least 20 years but no more than 30 years.
Ten years if the marriage length lasted 30 years or longer.
In cases where the spousal maintenance is awarded due to the mental or physical disability of the spouse or a child of the marriage, the court may order the maintenance continue as long as the disability continues.
The spousal maintenance awarded by the court is discretionary and may not always eliminate the shortfall of the requesting spouse’s monthly expenses.
What about Termination of Spousal Maintenance? The obligation to pay future maintenance terminates on the death of either party or on the remarriage of the spouse receiving the maintenance.
If the court finds that the receiving spouse cohabits with another person and is in a dating or romantic relationship in a permanent place of abode on a continuing basis, the court shall order the termination of the maintenance obligation.
Termination of the maintenance obligation does not terminate the obligation to pay any maintenance that accrued before the date of termination and this amount will have to be paid or a judgment will be enforced by the court.
If you are thinking about a divorce in Texas and have questions concerning your eligibility for spousal maintenance contact a legal professional to help you through this process.