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Divorce When There is a Child with Special Needs

This guest post is from Benjamin Rubin.

When parents of a child with special needs get divorced there are many additional complications beyond a traditional divorce involving children. First and foremost, child support must be very Blog-Divorce-Main-Landscapecarefully considered to ensure that there is no loss of benefits. Child support payments that are required to be paid by a parent in accordance with Illinois state law by Court order, may result in a reduction or the complete elimination of a child’s SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefit as well as the child’s Medicaid, which provides the child’s medical coverage, therapy, employment support, and home or residential support services (such as group homes) needed for the appropriate support for that child with special needs, and the custodial parent. For a child age 18 or older one hundred percent (100%) minus $20.00 of the child support payments ordered by Court, count as a reduction against SSI.

Government benefits can be protected, however, if the court order directs that child support payments are to be made to a “special version” of a Special Needs Trust for the sole benefit of that child, known as a self-settled special needs trust (also known as a 1st party, “pay-back,” OBRA, d4A, or d4C special needs trust). It’s important to note that this is different than the type of special needs trust most commonly established by parents for gifts and inheritances which is often called a 3rd party special needs trust.

Support payments to a 1st party special needs trust do not displace SSI, nor jeopardize Medicaid and Medicaid Waiver programs (such as group homes and day programs), greatly benefitting both parents and the child. It should be noted that for smaller child support payments (if total child support ordered is currently less than $14,000 per year) an ABLE account may be used. For more information about ABLE accounts please see ABLE article.

Again, for a child age 18 or older, one hundred percent (100%) minus $20.00 of the child support payment counts as a reduction against SSI; unless the court order provides that such support be paid irrevocably to an appropriate special needs trust or to an ABLE account in some cases (see above).

There are other considerations that have particular importance in the context of a child with special needs which should be discussed. First, health insurance coverage can be crucial. In Illinois it can be maintained by the parents of a child with special needs, in most cases, until the parents retire. Second, life insurance proceeds may be ordered by the court to be paid to a special needs trust, however, under current POMS (Social Security’s rules) and Medicaid regulations it does not need to go to a 1st party special needs trust as is the case with child support. It is highly recommended that a special needs planning attorney be consulted on all of these matters.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Benjamin (Benji) Rubin’s older brother Mitchell has Autism and lives in a Clearbrook CILA. Benji graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, Magna Cum Laude, received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and currently is pursuing his Graduate Law Degree, an LLM (Tax), at Northwestern University. Benji, a partner in the law firm, joined the practice in 2010. Benji is a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, a member of the Special Needs Alliance, is Vice Chairman of the American Bar Association Special Needs Planning Committee, serves as the President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board, and serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass(Encompass in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures, seeks to provide adults with I/DD a full array of financially sustainable, community-based services and supports), and is a member of the Board of Directors of the SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) Foundation. Benji is also a Faculty Member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE). Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now, as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he will have regarding his brother’s care are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.

Dealing with Divorce: Creating Stability No Matter How Unstable You Might Feel

Divorce can be scary, filled with uncertainty, and will ultimately lead to a ‘new’ family structure. It is Blog-Divorce-Main-Landscapeimportant to be mindful of how uncertainty can feel to your children and to proactively take steps to create stability for your children during the divorce process.

Below are some suggestions to improve your child’s sense of stability during a divorce:

Create a Visual Calendar

As you and your family navigate the divorce process, one concern your children may have could be around their living arrangements. If your children have friends with divorced parents they may be familiar with what custody arrangements look like, however, every family is different. Early on in the process, it is important that your child understands what his or her living arrangements will look like. Moreover, one way to reduce your children’s uncertainty is to create a visual calendar for them so they know when they will be at mom or dad’s house. Involve your child in creating the calendar and making it their own by adding drawings, stickers, and favorite colors. Also, remember to update the calendar as needed – change happens and it’s important to communicate this.

Create Comfort in Both Homes

Another way to create a sense of stability is to reduce the feeling your children may have that they are living out of a backpack as they transition between parent households. One way to do this is to make sure each household has a set of your child’s essentials (i.e. daily routine items, clothing, stuffed animals, homework supplies, etc.). This can create comfort for your child as well as prevent unnecessary moments of frustration. Involve your child in this process by creating a list of needs together, then finding these items within your home or shopping together for them at the store.

Create Positive Experiences

While your child is settling into this ‘new’ family structure it is important to continue to create positive experiences. This might look like exploring new neighborhoods, finding new parks and ice cream shops – if one parent has moved to an unfamiliar area. Or creating a Wednesday night pizza tradition. Or finding a Sunday morning breakfast spot. Although learning to manage change and uncertainty is healthy and a necessary part of emotional growth, predictability can be just as helpful during times of heightened stress. Allowing your child to look forward to your new family traditions and experiences can create a sense of comfort and excitement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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What Can Happen When ADHD Goes Untreated

The Long Term Effects of Not Treating ADHD

A recent article published in Healthline indicated that there are numerous long-term negative effects of not treating children who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

One of the concerns is that children who do not receive either behavioral and/or pharmacologicalThe Long-Term Effects of Untreated ADHD intervention to address their inattention and impulse control never learn strategies to deal with impulsivity when they become adolescents and adults.  It has been documented that there is an increase in unemployment or underemployment for adults with ADHD who never received any form of intervention.  These individuals were also found to make between $8,000 to $15,000 less then non-ADHD workers in similar jobs.

There have been studies that indicate that adults with untreated ADHD are nearly twice as likely as non-ADHD adults to get divorced.

Many times in my clinic I hear parents indicate that they do not want to medicate their children, as they are afraid that it may lead to later substance use.  The research actually indicates the direct opposite in that adolescents and adults with untreated ADHD are at an increased risk for substance use in the form of self-medication to help alleviate symptoms of distress associated with their inattention or impulsivity.

There is ample evidence to indicate that children who never receive treatment for their ADHD are at increased risk for negative social and behavioral concerns as they reach adolescents and adulthood.  If a parent or teacher believes a child may have symptomology of ADHD it is important that the child receives intervention to help deal with the concerns they exhibit.

ADHD Resource Center

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

help your child cope with divorce

How To Help Your Child Cope With Divorce

Now that the dust has settled and the formation of two separate households has emerged, how do you prepare your child to cope with the changes that occur because of divorce? Even though parenting may appear distinct and different, it is important that co-parenting remain a priority. How each parent arranges their day-to-day affairs can be incongruous, however overall expectations for the child must remain consistent.

Consistency is key in terms of helping your child transition in to this new post-divorce arrangement, help your child cope with divorceas it reduces any anxiety about what will happen next. Two households with stark contrasts in terms of routines, structure, and discipline might be confusing for the child and facilitate splitting behaviors as the child develops an awareness into which parent will best meet his needs with the least resistance. This may create a disparity in following directions and engaging in compliant behaviors across contexts. Maintaining similar modes of discipline and expectations will reaffirm that even though both parents are not under the same roof, there is uniformity in parenting which can be comforting to the child and prove effective in instilling parental core values in children.

Here are 3 tips on how to help your child deal with life after divorce:

  1. Maintain open and honest communication. Invite your child to process his feelings, both positive and negative, about the situation at hand. This will allow the child to mourn the loss of his previous perception of “family” and to adopt and transition into a newer version of “family.” Provide your child with creative outlets to draw, communicate, or conceptualize what family means to him now (i.e. a child might draw something that illustrates family equals 2 houses instead of 1 house).
  2. Never bad mouth your ex in front of your child. Maintaining positive sentiments about the child’s other parent will enhance positive feelings of the other parent in the eyes of the child. Just because there is strain in the parental dyad does not mean that child needs to take sides. Also, this ensures the child feels safe to discuss the other parent in your presence. Otherwise, the child might feel anxious about sharing his positive feelings about the other parent to you and feel caught in the middle.
  3. Communicate with your ex. Make sure that you are both on the same page about core values and expectations so you can reinforce each other as challenges arise. If for example, the child has been told at Mom’s house during the week that they cannot go to soccer practice over the weekend if they don’t comply with bedtime routine M-F, Dad would have to uphold that consequence. What is so important too is that Mom approve this consequence with Dad before offering it. If dad is not ok with compromising soccer, Mom and Dad would have to come up with another option. The more the parents are on the same page, the better, as this will reduce stress during the already stressful time brought on by divorce.

Click here to read about dating after divorce.






co-parenting effectively

Tips for Co-Parenting Effectively

When it comes to parenting, whether both parents live under the same roof or not, it is important to provide a united front with regards to discipline, routines, and overall expectations for the child. This called co-parenting.   Parental communication with regard to each parent’s value system is critical for the consistency necessary to foster appropriate modes of behavior.

Regardless of what the desired outcomes may be, follow these easy steps to co-parent effectively:

Determine desired outcomes.

It is important that prior to any triggering situation, both parents sit down and come up with clear, concrete expectations about what they desire from their kids.

  • What is the discipline style each parent is comfortable fulfilling (will allow for negotiation/open dialogue, will be more authoritarian, etc.)?
  • What behaviors will and will not be tolerated?

This way, during challenging situations, the mode of response is the same whether the parents are together or separated when with the child. This consistent co-parenting will indicate to the child that negative behaviors will not change the mind of the parent. For example, if a child begins to cry out and tantrum, will the parents given in or will the parents both remain calm and ignore the behavior? The response needs to remain the same across environments and with both or just one of the parents.

Communicate.

It is important to process and communicate your thoughts and feelings to provide an open forum for discussion. Do not hesitate to express your feelings and thoughts to problem-solve, but be sure to do this BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Even if your spouse is saying something cringe-worthy in front of the children, be sure to maintain this stance and address your dismay or disagreement away from the children. The minute this parental dyad splits, the children learn how to “split” their parents to get whatever need they desire. This is where the child asks the mom for a playdate, mom says no, so child asks dad, who then says yes. To avoid this make sure that you defer back to the other parent to check on the previous resolution stated.

Follow these two simple tips to co-parent the right way.  More questions?  Our social work team can help you with any questions you may have about healthy parenting.

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Dating After Divorce: Is My Child Ready To Meet My New Partner?

Man and Child Shaking HandsFirst, Allow Time For Adjustment To The Divorce

When deciding the “if, how, and when” of introducing a new partner to your child, first consider the adjustment period they’ve been in since the divorce.

Ask:

How strongly did the divorce affect your children?

How were they able to cope?

If your children are still showing signs of emotional distress (anger, sadness, fear, surprise, non-compliance) in reaction to the divorce, then you may want to hold off. Your child could need a period of at least 6 months -1 year for healthy adjustment. It is my belief that a successful Read more