At Mattox & Wilson, our experienced Indiana child custody attorneys have successfully represented countless clients in child custody cases, each unique in its intricacies. But when it comes to children with special needs, there is an added layer of complexity that must be delicately navigated.
For over two decades, we have helped parents with disabled and special needs children successfully obtain favorable child custody outcomes. If you have a special needs son or daughter and need assistance with a child custody matter in Indiana, we invite you to call our office to schedule a consultation to learn more about your legal rights and options.
Each year, countless couples go through the emotional ordeal of divorce. For those with children, it is an even more challenging experience. The situation becomes especially delicate when parents have a child with special needs.
The following are just a few reasons why the process can differ significantly for families with special needs children:
Due to these unique factors, parents of special needs children in Indiana often benefit from consulting with attorneys who have experience in both family law and the specific challenges associated with special needs care. It ensures that the child’s well-being remains the top priority throughout the custody process.
Indiana law is explicit when it comes to legal child custody. Parents can either share joint legal custody or one can have sole custody. For the parent with legal custody, they hold the right to make pivotal decisions pertaining to a child’s major medical care, educational choices, and religious upbringing.
Being New Albany child custody attorneys, we have observed firsthand how legal custody becomes even more crucial for a child with special needs. Such children often require immediate medical attention or educational decisions. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it requires nearly $240,000 to raise a child, but this cost can quadruple for children with special needs. The legal custodian thus has a heavy responsibility – from choosing the right doctors to placing the child in specialized education programs.
Furthermore, the custodian has the authority to decide the child’s school district. And given that many schools, under state and federal law, are obligated to accommodate and support children with special needs, this decision becomes paramount.
While joint legal custody may sound ideal, it has its set of challenges, especially when the child has special needs. Disagreements might arise, leading to court interventions. Given the rapid decisions often required for children with disabilities, this can delay essential support, which is not always in the best interest of a child.
In Indiana, the “best interest of the child standard” is the guiding principle for physical custody. Yet, what works for a typical child might not be suitable for a special needs child. Equal parenting time and frequent transitions might unsettle children with conditions like autism, who often crave predictability.
Numerous considerations come into play when determining physical custody for a child with special needs. These range from factors such as the transition of specialized equipment and transportation logistics to the familiarity with third-party providers and the environment of each parent’s home.
Another critical factor is the provision of spousal maintenance in Indiana. Specifically, if a special needs child requires constant care from one of the parents, that parent might be eligible to receive spousal maintenance for the duration of the child’s disability. This represents one of the few scenarios in Indiana where a divorcing party might be mandated to pay spousal maintenance indefinitely to the opposing party dedicated to the child’s care. As experienced New Albany child custody attorneys, we recognize and emphasize the importance of every nuance and detail to ensure the best interests of your child are upheld.
Our primary advice as New Albany child custody attorneys is cooperation. When parents work together, it simplifies and benefits the process. But if disagreements arise and court intervention becomes necessary, it is essential to present comprehensive evidence about the child’s needs, be it school records or individualized programs. Remember, the priority is always the well-being of the child.
In our time serving the parents in New Albany and the surrounding communities, we have continually emphasized the importance of understanding and compassion, especially in cases involving children with special needs. At Mattox & Wilson, we strive to guide our clients through the process, ensuring that every decision made prioritizes the best interests of their child. Call us today to schedule a consultation to learn more about our representation in special needs child custody matters.
 The Cost of Raising a Child, U.S. Department of Agriculture, https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/01/13/cost-raising-child.
 Special Education, Indiana Department of Education, https://www.in.gov/doe/students/special-education/.