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How to Divorce with a Special Needs Child on Long Island

by | Aug 27, 2019 | child custody and support, divorce lawyer long island ny, News and Events

Deciding to get a divorce is difficult, and sharing a special needs child with your ex-spouse can exacerbate every aspect of the situation. Here’s how you can navigate dissolving your marriage when you have a child with special needs and how to get help protecting your family as you close one chapter of your lives and open a new one.

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Consider the Capacity of Each Parent to Care for a Special Needs Child

One parent will likely become the child’s primary custodian and the needs of the child play a significant role in determining who that parent should be. Evaluate the fitness of both you and your spouse to provide the type of care your child needs. For example, if one spouse works a job with erratic hours, that spouse may not have the ability to provide full-time care for a special needs child. Consider which parent can spend the most time with the child and/or provide the most comprehensive care.

Think About How Your Child’s Needs Affect Visitation

When one parent has primary custody of a child, the other parent typically has visitation. This means that the non-custodial parent has the right to spend time with the child, usually on a previously agreed upon day or date. With a special needs child, it’s important to factor in the non-custodial parent’s ability to provide care for a special needs child. The non-custodial parent needs to be able to provide for the child’s needs for the duration they have visitation and if they can’t, the visitation schedule should be amended or the non-custodial parent should work with a caregiver when the child is with them.

Calculate the Financial Burden of Your Child’s Medical Care and Other Expenses

Typical Long Island child custody formulas don’t account for children who have special needs. Special needs families typically have higher medical expenses, educational expenses, and may also incur costs for custom clothing, mobility equipment, and more. It’s important to work with a forensic accountant to determine the average annual expenses for your child and what future expenses can be expected. New York family courts work with couples who have special needs children to equitably distribute costs over and beyond what child support usually affords.

Consider the Needs of Your Child Well Into the Future

Your child’s needs will change as they grow, and with special needs children, they may not be ready to be independent at the age of 21 — the legal cutoff for child support payments. Do your best to estimate what your child will need well into the future, especially if you expect for them to remain dependent in some way throughout their lives.

Determine What You and Your Ex-Spouse Disagree On

If you and your ex-spouse agree on most or all of the various aspects of your divorce, you may be able to file an uncontested divorce. Even if you have a special needs child, if you’re in agreement on custody, property division, and other matters related to the dissolution of your marriage, you can likely avoid going to court. On the other hand, if you and your ex-spouse don’t agree, you may need to explore the possibility of a contested divorce and divorce litigation.

Evaluate the Benefit of Counseling During Your Divorce

Getting a divorce is challenging enough, but when you add in custody, visitation, and child support for a special needs child, things can quickly become overwhelming. Consider meeting with a counselor or therapist and enrolling your child in an appropriate counseling program to help process the divorce in a positive way. It’s even more important for parents to be calm, grounded, and neutral with a child who has special needs, but it’s unhealthy to keep your emotions in all the time. Working with a therapist can help your family heal during and after a divorce in a safe and controlled way.

Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney

If you’re the parent of a special needs child and are considering getting a divorce, it’s critical that you speak with an experienced family law attorney on Long Island as soon as possible. Call us today for more information about divorcing with a special needs child or to schedule your free consultation at 631-923-1910.


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Everett Roberts
Everett Roberts
14:30 18 Mar 20
Going through a divorce was very challenging and emotional. Searching for an attorney can be challenging as well when you consider everything that is at stake. The choice I made to work with Rob Hornberger was surely the best choice available. His professionalism, expertise, and understanding made him and the entire team perfectly suited to achieve the outcomes I desired. Rob was always available to answer my questions and give me advice and legal considerations that affected my situation. The support I received from his staff was exemplary as well. The staff was courteous, kind, and also very professional. Thank you so much Rob and team for a worry free experience.
Annemarie Cusumano
Annemarie Cusumano
21:41 17 Mar 20
Being in family court especially when your children are on the line is extremely emotional and stressful but working with Robert and Christine put me at ease and made the process as pleasant as a situation like that can be. I have a now 3 year old daughter (who is the most important person in my life) and I've been working with them for over two years since my daughter was 7 months old, the case has been up and down and through it all Rob and Christine have never given up. My original case was due to a neglect charge. Cps is not easy to work with, but Rob and Christine were vigilant and I ended up getting my daughter back within 8 months and did not have to plead guilty to the neglect. Currently I am in family court to figure out a custody agreement. They are professional, empathetic, and patient. They have always explained everything thoroughly, informed me of all my options and advised me of what my best option would be. They always respond quickly when I contact them with questions or concerns and most importantly they fight for me in court and don't give up even when things get rough. Before hiring Rob and Christine I met with other attorneys who did not make me feel confident or comfortable at all about my case, so I am very grateful to have found Rob and Christine and to be represented by such great attorneys. I highly recommend them for any family court matters and will definitely continue to use them in the future if needed.
Steven Frierman
Steven Frierman
02:25 07 Mar 20
After meeting with 3 different lawyers, we felt Robert understood us best and he genuinely had our best interests at heart. This helped us resolve a few minor issues in a timely fashion and make a potentially stressful situation go more smoothly.Thank you
Randi Gottlieb
Randi Gottlieb
18:47 03 Mar 20
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. - Mr. Robert Hornberger and his staff are beyond professional, they quickly gave me my consultation appointment, and helped me with an after-Divorce issue. Mr. Hornberger was empathetic and explained to me what I should expect. Mr. Hornberger was extremely professional and advised me of my options, he helped me proceed with accurate and smart decisions. I wish I had Mr. Hornberger and his highly recommended staff when I was getting divorced. I would highly recommend Robert and his staff to anyone who is getting a divorce or in need of help with situations after the divorce!
Rob Spielmann
Rob Spielmann
22:15 27 Feb 20
They made our process so easy. They were there to answer and help with any questions that came up. Very friendly


  • I have known Robert for more than 8 eight years. Robert has represented many of my family and friends. Each and every one has raved about Robert’s professionalism and expertise. He is knowledgable, friendly and truly cares about his clients. I would not hesitate to continue to refer Robert and his firm in the future!
  • I’ve known Robert for most of my life, and feel very fortunate that I have been able to turn to a good friend for various kinds of legal advice. He is very intelligent, straight forward, and professional. Most importantly though, Robert always finds the fastest resolution, and will not waste your time or money. He is NOT in the habit of dragging things through litigation if there is no need for the added expense. I have referred a few of my friends to Robert, and they have all been more than satisfied in their experience with him. Highly recommend!!



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