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The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

Spousal Support When You Care for a Special-Needs Child

Do you have a special-needs child? You have a lot on your plate. Many people, perhaps even your ex-spouse, don’t realize that caring for a special-needs child is a full-time obligation. You don’t just take care of your child’s daily needs and treatment; you also deal with the planning, the emergencies and, in some cases, the meltdowns. You schedule routine doctor appointments, therapy, educational activities, and play groups. You get your child to these appointments and activities, even when special transportation is required. When treatment options change, you research your choices to make the best possible decisions for your child. You deal with the insurance and make sure treatment is paid for. And, you run a house. If there are other children, you care for them.

Spousal support in California is usually granted with the expectation that the spouse who receives support payments will become self-supporting after a period of time. But what happens when that spouse is unable to work because she is the full-time, primary care giver to a special-needs child?

The care of a special-needs child must be considered a factor when determining whether spousal maintenance is required. While spousal support is not intended for child care, it can be used to benefit a spouse who gives up her time, effort, and career opportunities to care for a special-needs child. In fact, the court may determine that the parent with fewer responsibilities toward the child should provide long-term monetary compensation to the primary caregiver for her hardships.

Being a full-time caregiver is hard, and it is not for everyone. What if you want a job? In that case, spousal support should offer you the opportunity to transition back into the workplace and the responsibility for the care of your child should be divided between both parents. Child support payments should be structured to include at least part of the cost of child care while you are at work; they may also include at-home nursing care and other needs.

The San Francisco women-only divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan can help you develop a California spousal support agreement that covers your needs and the needs of your child. To schedule an appointment, call us at 415-341-1144.