Chalimony: When Divorce Meets Special Needs

As many parents of special needs kids know, raising a disabled child is much more expensive than raising typical children. I have previously discussed some of the extraordinary costs in my post on Divorce and Special Needs Children. Many states mandate that parents of a disabled child continue supporting these children, even after they are no longer minors. New York does not follow this mandate, allowing the state to support our disabled children instead. However, if the child is living with a divorced parent, then that parent often has to shoulder many of the costs — with no contribution from the other parent. After the child reaches the age of 21 in New York, there is no way to force that other parent to shoulder any of the financial burden.

An Amazing Statistic

Karen Czapanskiy, a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, has proposed a solution she calls “Chalimony” . She states “Parents of a child with autism, on average, have lifetime earnings of nearly a million dollars less than other parents.”

That is astounding. But it is understandable. Many of us put our careers on hold to take care of our children, to drive them to doctor and therapy appointments, to ensure they are cared for properly. Even after the children are grown, even if many of them do not need hands-on care anymore, there are years missing from career paths.

Czapanskiy suggests: “[Chalimony] would be available to the parent with whom the disabled or chronically ill child lives most of the time if that caregiver is unable to be employed full-time because of the child’s special needs. The child’s other parent could avoid paying chalimony if he or she were meeting enough of the child’s needs to permit the primary parent to work full-time.”

I would take it a step further. Any parent who has stayed home with a special needs child and missed out on the opportunity to advance a career, also deserves chalimony.

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