Private Schools and the Autistic Child
Child support in all fifty states in the United States is based on the Child Support Standard Act. This statute lays out a schedule of child support payments and ancillary expenses the non-residential custodial parent must contribute to. However, private school tuition is not one of the items included as a necessary payment obligation for non-custodial parents. Courts have discretion to adjust the child support figures related to the special needs of a disabled child. Divorce courts can utilize their discretion to order a parent to contribute to private schooling costs for an autistic child with special needs. In situations where the public schools do not offer the specialized programs for an autistic child it may be in the child’s best interest to attend a school that can deliver specialized educational services related to autism. The tuition costs for these types of schools should be taken into consideration by courts in making custody decisions concerning autistic children.
Emancipation and the Autistic Child
In the State of New York, a child is considered emancipated at the age of twenty one unless the child at an earlier age marries, enters into the armed services, or is working and self supporting.
An autistic child may never be emancipated. Courts should consider whether a child’s disability should extend the time the child is unemancipated for child support purposes. A child over the age of twenty one who is disabled and incapable of maintaining himself or herself because of illness or disorder should be considered to be unemancipated even if over the age of twenty one.
Autism is a tragedy affecting more and more American children. Divorces caused by the tension and stress created by the necessary dealing with the unique problems of the autistic child are on the rise. Courts, parents, and attorneys need to cooperate in creative decision making with regard to dealing with unique problems associated with raising an autistic child.
About the Author
Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq., has been practicing Family and Divorce law in the metropolitan New York area for more than 45 years. Elliot and his team of dedicated, hard working lawyers deal with all aspects of matrimonial and family law including issues involving divorce grounds, family law, child custody, changing visitation, child abuse and child neglect, drafting separation agreements, prenuptial and post nuptial agreements. We also have litigated cases involving mothers’ rights and fathers’ rights.