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Child support is vital for a divorced parent of an autistic child

Massachusetts parents understand that it costs a lot of money to raise a child from birth to age 18. But parents of children with disabilities on the autism spectrum are hit with even more expenses. Depending on the extent of the child’s disability, parents may have to provide for their child until he or she is much older than 18. One study estimates that the cost of caring for an autistic child for his or her lifetime could exceed $1.4 million. If a child is hit with the double whammy of intellectual disability as well, that figure can climb to $2.4 million.

In addition to the financial cost, a great deal of effort and time is expended by the parent to ensure that their child receives the exact services that will help him or her function sufficiently in the real world. But even when the perfect therapist or tutor is located, the funds must be there to pay for services.

One parent of a 13-year-old autistic teen said, “only a parent of a child with special needs can ever understand the struggles, and the financial commitment, of raising and recovering an autistic child. It’s an endless battle — and an expensive one.” Single and divorced parents who don’t receive regular child support from the other parent struggle even harder to provide for their child’s needs. In two-parent households, one parent may reduce their working hours or remain out of the workforce completely to focus solely on their special needs child. But when only one parent is present in the home, under usual circumstances, that parent must work.

While many parents prefer to work out their child support issues between themselves, sometimes the process breaks down and one parent ends up delaying or skipping payments entirely. In cases like this, the non-paying parent can sometimes be taken to court and held accountable for his or her share of the child-rearing expenses.

Source: Source: TIME, "Raising an Autistic Child: Coping With the Costs," Chris Taylor, June 24, 2014

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