QUESTION: “What are the unique factors that must be accounted for when negotiating a divorce agreement where there is a special needs child?”  (part 2)

One in five Pennsylvania children has a special medical need. This means that the child has a physical, mental, developmental or emotional condition that requires additional medical care, mental health care, counseling, therapy or educational services.

Many families find that it is hard to make ends meet after a divorce. It is even harder when the family includes a special needs child.  Like all children, a child with special needs requires a home, nutritious food, clothing, schooling and basic medical care. But, many special needs children have needs that go beyond those of typical children. The additional costs associated with raising a special needs child may include:

  • Hospitalization
  • Frequent doctor’s visits
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychological counseling
  • Psychiatric treatment
  • Medication
  • Medical equipment
  • Mobility devices such as wheelchairs
  • Adaptive modifications to the family home or vehicle
  • Special diets
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Special education
  • In-home care
  • Respite care
  • Adaptive transportation
  • Adaptive extra-curricular activities

Court-ordered child support can help provide food, clothing, medical care and education for a child after a divorce. However, the formulas that are used to calculate Pennsylvania child support are based on the cost of raising a healthy child, not a special needs child. A typical child support award is inadequate when a child has ongoing medical and educational needs.

Children with special needs are entitled to additional support. The Philadelphia divorce attorney at Petrelli Previtera will work with you to make sure that your child support agreement covers the needs of your child. This may include the cost of special medical equipment, therapy, summer camps, special needs schooling and adaptation of your home or vehicle.

Child support payments are usually made until the child turns 18 or until the child finishes his schooling. A special needs child may require care throughout adulthood. Our attorneys can help you make arrangements for your child’s on-going support and protection. To learn more, please call Petrelli Previtera at 215-523-6900.