Divorcing and Have a Child with Special Needs? Additional Help is Available

Divorcing and Have a Child with Special Needs? Additional Help is Available

By Susan Bernstein EdD, CDC

Divorcing and Have a Child with Special Needs? Additional Help is Available

Divorce is hard on all families. No one gets married thinking they will get divorced, and similarly, no one imagines their baby will have severe special needs. Combine the two, and you get a challenging and potentially volatile situation. The American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities states that 80% of couples that have a child with special needs will get divorced (by the time the child reaches 21). Tensions are high, and expectations are filled with disappointment.

Building a team to help 

Vesta Divorce has become a resource across the United States with local Hubs comprised of vetted professionals who understand the needs of families before, during, and after divorce. Vesta offers complimentary concierge services and divorce support events to help with the complexities of divorce, and they have legal, emotional, and financial resources available for every divorce situation.

Our Westchester, NY Hub is in the beginning phases and has an amazing team, including Certified Divorce Coach Dr. Susan Korb Bernstein, a specialist supporting families who are divorcing and have a special needs child.

Certified Divorce Coach, Susan Bernstein, has personal experience with a severely special needs 16-year-old daughter and her divorce. Susan is also trained in high conflict divorce. Earning her Doctorate in Education and experience as an educational consultant, school teacher, administrator, and college professor before working in the divorce arena, Susan is uniquely qualified to help people through many facets of divorce while being the parent of a special needs child. Her personal experience and knowledge base make all the difference to parents who hire her to help them through the divorce process. She talks nationally on different forums to help raise awareness for additional considerations of children with disabilities when divorce comes into the picture. She always gives a free consultation to get someone pointed in the right direction. You can find more information on her website www.divorcecoachplus.com.

Susan’s hands-on experience has led her to develop a winning strategy to coordinate all resources to keep costs down and stress minimal over the long term. She works nationally to build a local team of experts for her clients that truly understand the reality of divorce involving a special needs child. It is vital that the family law attorney works with a special needs attorney and coordinate with a financial planner with expertise in this area to address the following key issues:

Divorce and custody/parenting time with special needs children

In amicable divorces, parents often share custody. Still, many times one of the special needs parents historically stays home to care for the child, providing the significant unpaid labor of caregiving, while the other parent is earning an income and shouldering the paid financial responsibilities. When a divorce, and therefore shared parenting time enters the picture, the income-producing parent now also has to be a part-time caregiver, and the caregiver now has to find a way to produce income after being out of the workforce for potentially many years.

It is important to ensure that the special needs child and any siblings’ best interests are the top priority. This is addressed by looking at the long-term plan and making sure all the details outlining care and responsibility are included in the divorce contract. We always want to avoid families’ going back to court. These considerations must be outlined in the divorce agreement and planning for their older years as well.

Parents of children with severe disabilities face life-long co-parenting and caregiving responsibilities. If parents aren’t on the same page, shared decision-making on health and education-related issues can make co-parenting almost impossible if a detailed plan is not in place. In addition, the extra pressures of recommendations regarding medical and educational needs are essential to clarify. Guardianship can and should be addressed in the divorce agreement related to that child’s care as a dependent adult.

Divorce finances and special needs children 

The significant financial burdens for special needs children such as doctors, therapies, medications, and private schools often wreak havoc on a marriage.  

Standard child support formulas do not address the extra expenses with special needs that can be lifelong responsibilities. Typically, a parent’s financial obligations end when the child turns 18 or 21 (depending on the state); parents of special needs children must continue to support children who are severely disabled and cannot live alone until either the parent or child dies can live independently.

In these complex divorce situations, thought must be given to the unique issues that arise in that child’s transition into adulthood, for example, eligibility for government assistance like SSI and Medicaid.

Certified Divorce Coaches with this niche of expertise, such as Dr. Susan Korb Bernstein, are a beneficial resource for families with special needs children. Dr. Bernstein pairs families with legal and financial experts who show them how to structure their funds in trusts to don’t risk disqualification for public benefits programs. They also educate parents on how they can set up ways to pay for caregivers or other resources to maintain the quality of life for their special needs child after the parents have passed on. It’s not as simple as leaving children money from a life insurance policy. If a special needs person has assets as low as $1000 in some states, they may be disqualified from receiving important government benefits. This can be a significant problem as eligibility for critical services such as supported employment and vocational rehabilitation services, group housing, transportation assistance, and personal attendant care could also be lost.

There is help and hope for those going through the divorce process with these special considerations. Susan is one of the vetted Professionals at Vesta Divorce who works with clients nationwide and internationally to help make divorces smoother for the entire family.

To contact Susan Bernstein EdD, CDC

Divorce Coach Plus

Tel: 551-444-2609 Email: susan@divorcecoachplus.com

Susan is a coach that coaches and is in the trenches with her clients. She also trains other coaches. No problem is too big or small to help them overcome. She personally had a divorce that was so horrid they made three national TV shows about it and she wished she had someone besides her awesome attorney to help get her through it. Susan knows It takes a team and she helps her clients with the emotional part to move forward, achieve their goals and overcome any obstacles in the way! Susan helps them be their best self and stay classy for their children to thrive during and after this stressful time. Susan has truly made lemonade out of lemons and her purpose is to give back and make a positive difference in other’s lives every single day!

Click here to learn more about the New York Professionals

For more information on Vesta explore our website www.VestaDivorce.com or call our Concierge service for support: 877-355-7649

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