Special Needs Child Custody

Denver Lawyers Fighting for the Rights of Children and Parents

Special Needs Child Custody Each child is different, and each responds to divorce differently. Divorce may be stressful for everyone in the family, but it may be especially hard on a child with special needs who has needs that cannot wait while the parents work through their issues. When considering any aspect of a divorce, the parents and the court must consider the impact of special needs tied into child custody and support. For example, when considering whether alimony in a divorce is appropriate, the court should take into account the impact on the ability to work outside the home that a caregiver parent might face. If you are going through a family law case and are concerned about the various issues that can arise related to caring for a child with special needs, you should retain a Denver child custody attorney who understands the law and your situation.

Special Needs Child Custody

In Colorado, all decisions related to child custody are supposed to be made based on what the child's best interest is. When there are multiple children, each child may require a separate assessment of their best interest. The goal is to encourage a child's emotional development and well-being, as well as their physical security and happiness. In most cases, it is in a child's best interest to have a strong relationship with both parents.

Factors to consider in an ordinary case include the child's relationship with each parent, the ability of a parent to put the child's needs ahead of their own, the physical and mental health of all of the parties, opportunities for interacting with extended family, the age and sex of the child, domestic violence, cultural considerations, and any special needs that a child has and whether both parents can meet them.

It is sometimes challenging to figure out which custody arrangement would serve a child's best interest. There is no formula that can be followed to ensure a child's best interest, and even under the easiest conditions, there may be a need for adjustments over time. All children have certain needs, such as love, support, stability, food, shelter, clothes, education, a social life, and good medical care. However, children with special needs may have additional needs or more intense basic needs. Parental responsibilities (legal custody) involves the right to make major decisions for a child, such as those related to education, medical care, or religion. When the parents are able to work together, they can share legal custody of a special needs child. Though joint decision-making is certainly the norm, there are situations in which one parent is not capable of making decisions or truly attuned to the special needs of a child. In those cases, sole decision-making may be more appropriate.

Colorado does not favor the mother or the father in determining custody. Generally, the parents should work together to figure out where the special needs child will live and where any equipment that the child needs will be kept.

Both parents need to provide support for the child. The court may order either or both of the parents who owe a duty of support to pay a reasonable and necessary amount to support the child. Among other things, a child with special needs may need certain foods, equipment to get from place to place, equipment for other disabilities, tutoring in multiple subjects, therapy, and medication.

Generally, the parents must split the costs of care, medical expenses, mental health expenses, equipment, and other needs. The physical and emotional condition of a child and their educational needs, including special needs or disabilities, are an important factor that must be considered when applying the child support guidelines. Other relevant factors include each parent’s financial resources any any resources the child may have, such as SSI or SSDI.

The parents will also need to make sure that an appropriate Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for a special needs child. IDEA 2004 and various special education regulations have specific requirements for IEPs when behavior affects the ability to learn or affects the learning of others. A child's IEP will need to include a statement of their present levels of academic achievement and functional performance. The IEP will also need to include a statement about any special education and any supplementary services or aids that will be provided to the child, as well as a statement of program modifications and supports for personnel to follow. When the parents have joint legal custody, both of them should be involved in developing the IEP.

Any parenting plan should also address what will happen to a special needs child as they grow into adulthood. When a child with special needs is mentally or physically disabled and cannot be self-sufficient, a child support order may stay in place past the 19th birthday of the child, either until the disability ends or as long as support is needed. The child support may include medical expenses, insurance coverage, and other necessary items. Disability is not explicitly defined in Colorado, but often a Social Security Administration's designation of a child as disabled is sufficient proof of disability.

Consult a Dedicated Child Custody Lawyer in the Denver Area

If you are concerned about issues related to special needs, divorce, and child custody you should consult an experienced attorney who understands all of the potential issues that may arise. At Plog & Stein, our Denver attorneys are sympathetic to our clients' needs and provide diligent and zealous representation to help them pursue their goals both during divorce and afterward. Contact Plog & Stein at (303) 781-0322 or online to schedule an appointment with a divorce attorney. We also represent people in Lakewood, Brighton, Westminster, and Thornton, as well as other areas of Denver, including Jefferson, Adams, and Boulder Counties.

Client Reviews
His passion and ferocity kept me going through this long ordeal.
When I first came to Plog & Stein it was simply discuss the renegotiation of child support. Little did I know that within 72 hours I would be retaining Steve Plog for a custody battle. His passion and ferocity kept me going through this long ordeal. I have recommended him to my friends and I would recommend him to anyone with who wants honest and effective representation.
I recommend Sarah and the attorneys at Plog & Stein to anyone that has these types of family issues and need strong, knowledgeable representation.
I am thankful for the job Sarah McCain did for me in my fight with my ex-wife for visitation rights with my daughter. Sarah and the team at Plog & Stein handled my case in an efficient, affordable, and professional manner. Sarah negotiated a new parenting plan as well as acceptable visiting rights and even a favorable modification in my child support. I recommend Sarah and the attorneys at Plog & Stein to anyone that has these types of family issues and need strong, knowledgeable representation.
At the end of the day he was able to produce a settlement that was fair to both parties.
I highly recommend Stephen Plog for anyone in need of a top notch domestic relations attorney. After a 27 year marriage, Stephen represented me in a complicated and sometimes bitter divorce with many unique challenges. At the end of the day he was able to produce a settlement that was fair to both parties but limited my alimony payments to only 3 years. He is smart, cuts to the chase, knows the court system in the Denver metropolitan area and can be trusted to get his clients the best possible settlement.
Their service was outstanding, with prompt responses to all of my questions.
Sarah McCain and Plog & Stein were wonderful to me during such a difficult time in my life. Their service was outstanding, with prompt responses to all of my questions and creative ideas throughout the proceedings to help things go smoothly. Sarah's compassion, patience, and expertise were especially invaluable to me. I highly recommend them.