Parenthood comes with certain rights and with many responsibilities. Parental responsibilities typically last until someone’s child reaches adulthood. Until your child turns 18 or graduates high school, you may have a legal obligation to provide them with housing, food and other basic necessities.
In situations where a child cannot or will not take care of themselves, those parental responsibilities may extend into adulthood. Children born with special needs, like autism, and those who suffer adverse medical events or injuries in their youth may become permanently dependent on their parents.
Having an adult child with special needs will likely complicate your divorce. Who will be responsible for your child at the end of your marriage?
You may need to share responsibilities for the rest of your lives
If parental responsibilities will never end because the child will never have the mental capacity to live independently, then the divorcing parents may have to think about permanent custody arrangements. They may want to alternate custody between their homes, as they would with younger children.
If such an approach isn’t realistic because one parent has a demanding job or lacks the patience or physical strength to care for an adult child with special needs, then one parent may have to assume sole or primary responsibilities child. In that arrangement, the other parent may have permanent child support obligations. There may also be spousal support or alimony required because the permanent childcare responsibilities will forever diminish what the other spouse can earn to support themselves.
Children with special needs can even affect property division. The longer someone with special needs has lived in the same place and followed the same schedule, the more disruptive changes could become. A judge might agree that moving between house would be particularly disruptive and award possession of the house where the family lives to the parent providing care for the child.
Divorce outcomes can be hard to predict
Unique family circumstances, like permanent, sole custody of an adult child with special needs, can influence what a judge views as appropriate and fair when dividing property or awarding alimony in a Florida divorce.
You and your ex might need to have some difficult conversations about what you can do to support your child and what will be fair for your family moving forward. Learning more about Florida family laws can help you navigate this complicated custody matter as you plan for your divorce.