Thanks for joining us again as we look at the specific challenges that the parents of special needs kids face when getting divorced. Having talked about both the financial and the emotional aspects, we would like to wrap this up with a look at the fundamental items that parents with special needs children will need to consider when ending their marriages.
Although this is something that all divorcing parents have to deal with, whether or not their kids have disabilities or special needs, it is of particular concern to those parents who do. Because kids with special needs already face unique challenges every day, divorce can make life especially hard for them. For this reason, it is critical that the custody agreement you and your spouse and your respective divorce attorneys come up with, takes into account the specific needs of your special needs child.
Often, standardized custody arrangements, like the common “one week with one parent, the next week with the other parent,” often don’t work well for special needs kids. One parent may have a harder time meeting scheduled therapy appointments due to their work schedule. Regular doctor’s visits may be harder for one parent who cannot find living accommodations closer to the hospital after the divorce. All of these factors need to be taken into account.
Decisions for custody should not be made based on what parents think is fair to them, or based on what they want for themselves, but should rather be made with the best interests of the child as the foremost deciding factor. However, bear in mind that the best interests of the child will differ from case to case, and each child’s individual needs should be carefully assessed in order to determine what is truly best for them.
Kids with special needs and disabilities often have specific educational requirements. Whether this means additional tutoring, speech therapy, one-on-one help in the classroom, special classes to address particular needs, or even a combination of all of these, parents will need to consider how best to address these issues after the divorce.
Sometimes the children’s needs in these areas will necessitate different parenting schedules or visitation times than the parents may prefer. Frustrating as this may be, we would like to remind you that the family court in Michigan makes most of it’s divorce related decisions based on what they consider to be in the best interest of the child.
Children with special needs, disabilities, and illnesses often have higher medical needs than other children. Whether it’s regular trips to the hospital to treat seizures, or frequent visits with doctors to oversee the side effects of prescription medications, your child’s medical needs will need to be considered when deciding how to set up custody and visitation arrangements after the divorce.
The closeness of a parent’s home to the hospital or doctor’s office, may play a role in deciding what custody arrangements are best suited to your child’s needs. Additionally, a parent’s schedule and availability, in particular when it comes to attending scheduled doctor’s visits and therapy sessions may also influence the outcome. Your best option would be to focus on what best suits your child’s needs, and less on what suits your own desires. We know this may sound harsh, but it isn’t meant to be judgemental or unkind, simply to remind parents of special needs kids that their divorces will be different, and will require more sacrifice.
We hope this three part series has been helpful and informative for you. If you are the parent of a special needs child, and you are considering divorcing your spouse, please contact us. We can help you address all of the challenges you may face during this stressful time, as well as create the best possible plan for your family moving forward.