Child support negotiations can be complicated in any divorce — but when a child has autism, you know that they may need additional support services for the rest of their life. That makes negotiations during your divorce (or after your child’s diagnosis, if that’s post-divorce) particularly complicated.
In Michigan, child support generally can only extend beyond age 19 and ½ by agreement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t plan ahead for your child’s future welfare in other ways. Here are some of the things that may need to be factored into your negotiations:
- Special tutoring or camps — Autism occurs on a spectrum, so no two children with the condition are exactly alike. Some autistic children thrive when given individual tutoring, music lessons, art lessons, programing classes or more.
- Sensory room items — Sensory overload is a problem for many autistic children. “Sensory rooms” have become a feature in homes with autistic children everywhere — but the furniture and other items that are required for these rooms can be pricey.
- Service animals — A service dog can be an autistic child’s best friend and make getting through the day easier. However, service dogs require very expensive training to do their jobs right. In addition, a service dog puts an additional burden on the custodial parent that involves paying for food, grooming and veterinary care.
- Counseling — As your child grows into an adult, they may need counseling to help them cope with the emotions associated with puberty and their growing desire for independence.
- Respite care — If you’re the parent with primary physical custody of an autistic child, you may be perfectly justified in factoring the cost of respite care into the child support agreement. You can’t take care of your child if you aren’t taking care of yourself.
In addition, you may want to talk to your spouse or ex-spouse about funding a trust for your child’s future needs. Certain kinds of trusts won’t interfere with your child’s ability to obtain important social and medical benefits once they become an adult.
Don’t try to handle child support negotiations on your own. Your child’s future shouldn’t be left up to chance and an experienced attorney can help.