If your child has special needs such as autism, there are many steps you can take to give him a happy, healthy, and rewarding life. And if you are a single parent who is struggling financially, you may be eligible to receive benefits such as In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). But what about child support? Are you getting enough child support for your child with autism?
According to the CDC, one in every 50 American children is diagnosed with autism. As a nation, we spend $137 billion on services for individuals with autism. And as parents, we spend a significant part of our income to provide the best possible future for our children who have special needs.
The average lifetime cost of providing care for a child with autism is $1.4 million dollars, according to reports from Autism Speaks. This doesn’t include fundamental costs of child-rearing such as food, clothing, basic health care, education and housing. If your child also has a disability, the cost increases to $2.3 million.
The burden of future planning, well-being and protection fall squarely on your shoulders as a custodial parent. It is the daily living and ordinary moments that test your self -reliance and capacity to parent alone.
Early intervention and therapy can make a huge difference to the future of a child with autism, but insurance only covers a fraction of the cost of occupational therapy, behavioral therapy, speech therapy, and socialization classes. Co-pays alone can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. And, insurance doesn’t cover any of the costs of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture and music therapy. Many single parents find themselves using second mortgages and credit cards to fund their child’s treatment.
But medical costs aren’t the only expense involved in raising a child with autism. Some children require around-the-clock care. You must hire an expensive caregiver in order to receive any type of respite or figure out a way to quit your job so you can stay home to care for your child.
These expenses can be a hardship for two-parent families; for single-parent families, they are even more stressful. Studies show that mothers of children with autism earn 56% less than mothers of children who do not have special needs. How can you provide the care their child needs and make ends meet? This is where government benefits like IHSS can assist you but also getting the proper amount of child support is essential in making sure all your bills are paid.
California law requires that both parents support a child with special needs. However, standard child support formulas don’t take into account all of the needs of a child with autism. In order to modify a California child support agreement, you must let the judge know about your child’s special needs and requirements.
A parenting plan should spell out essential information and instructions. Managing the care of a child with special needs is often a full- time job and the effect on the custodial parent’s income should be considered when establishing child support. Since caring for your child with autism may extend well beyond the age of 18, you need to tailor your divorce agreement for the long-term. Use appropriate special needs trusts, in coordination with public benefits and in contemplation of gifting plans and long-term care insurance. Effectively channel support obligations and parenting plans in the divorce settlement to provide for more quality of life expenditures for the child.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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