Rearing a child with special needs can be hard on a marriage. If you and your spouse are divorcing – for whatever reason – you will need to take the needs of your child into consideration as you work out your custody agreement and parenting plan.
Whether your child has a physical or developmental disability, a chronic illness that requires ongoing treatment and care or some other special need, the change in the family dynamic may be especially difficult for children to accept. The better you and your spouse can work together, both during and after the divorce, the less stressful the divorce will be for them.
Your custody schedule may need to be developed around your child’s care routine and needs. If your child requires special equipment and/or home modifications, it may be best if they remain in the family home with the parent who is their primary caregiver and if that parent retains primary physical custody of them.
If parents decide to share custody, whether evenly or not, it’s important that both parents have everything their child needs in their home (unless it’s easily transferrable) and that both know how to care for them.
Determining legal custody is also crucial with special needs children, as it involves making long term decisions regarding a child’s education, medical treatment and other crucial aspects of their care and upbringing.
You and your co-parent will likely need to communicate even more than other divorced parents after you are no longer together. That will take patience. You’ll also both need to have patience with your child. Some kids with special needs have developed extraordinary coping mechanisms and handle changes – even big ones – very well. Others — perhaps due to the nature of their disabilities – don’t handle changes well at all.
Your family law attorney can help you work toward a custody agreement and parenting plan that will be centered on what’s best for your child.