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Parents with special needs children jayden-with-baseballsface unique legal issues in custody, divorce and support cases. Creative solutions must be brainstormed when determining child custody, child support and division of assets in these cases.


Many special needs children are not able to tolerate change in routine very well. Some children may require medication, medical equipment and individualized transportation. Parents should always focus on the child’s needs and what is in the child’s best interests when creating a parenting plan for custody of their special needs child. Parents should consider who will address the child’s needs when a parent is working, who will get the child to therapy and coordinate various services, and how all the child’s needs will be met. Sometimes a parent is not able to work because caring for a special needs child is a full time job in itself.


The Pennsylvania Support Guidelines are used to calculate each parent’s basic support obligation. Deviations to the basic child support obligation can be made to apportion special needs costs between the parents. Even if a parent has health insurance, the plan may not cover all services for the child. Parents should consider addressing payment for special schooling, adaptive services / activities, and special clothing when negotiating support arrangements.

In some cases, a special needs child may never be able to be self-sufficient. In these cases, a parent’s duty to pay child support can extend into adulthood. Even if an adult child is admitted into a residential program, that child will continue to have economic needs. In some cases, a special needs trust can be set up to help fund the child’s care and activities.

Attorney Mehaffie has a personal understanding of the challenges facing families with special needs children. Her brother is an adult effected by autism. Attorney Mehaffie advocates for her brother and many others impacted by Autism. She was a board member with the Autism Society of Greater Harrisburg Area for several years and continues to advocate for those in the autism community. As a former teacher, she has thorough understanding of child psychology, education and issues that families with a special needs child experience.

For a private meeting to discuss your case please contact the Law Office of Debra R. Mehaffie by calling (717) 790-2403.