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Custody and Support Considerations When Your Child Has Special Needs

In Illinois, a special needs child can impact child custody and support payments. The court may award custody based on the child’s needs and order child support payments past the legal age of 18. A child custody lawyer in Illinois can explain factors that may impact the court’s decision.

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special needs infographic

Illinois Laws Relating to Child Custody and Support

According to Illinois laws, married and divorced parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of majority. In Illinois, the age of majority is 18, or 19 if the child is still attending high school. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, when a child has special needs or is physically or mentally disabled and unable to financially support him/herself past the age of 18, courts can order parents to provide financial support for an indefinite period of time, even for the child’s entire adult life. To get court approval for extended financial support of a special needs or disabled adult child, an Illinois child custody lawyer must prove special needs or disability to the court, and prove that these impairments prevent the child from providing self-support as an adult.

Child Custody

In Illinois, determination of child custody is based on the best interest of the child. To determine the best interest of the child, the court looks at which parent has been the primary caregiver of the child, as well as other factors. One of the goals of family courts is to encourage children and parents to continue a healthy relationship after a divorce. A child with special needs may have mobility struggles that make shared custody arrangements difficult or impossible, so a traditional parenting plan may not be an option. When requested, Illinois judges can order virtual parenting time using technologies and other forms of electronic communication when physical visits are not possible.

Child Support

Illinois courts are guided by statutory guidelines in which a non-custodial parent is required to pay a certain percentage of his/her net income for child support, depending on the number of children involved. When deemed appropriate, the court may deviate from the guidelines and order child support payments that are more or less than guideline amounts, depending on relevant circumstances. A child with special needs may have a variety of extraordinary expenses related to his/her care. To properly address these child support costs, a child custody lawyer in Illinois must present accurate, documented expenses to the court.

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