As we discussed in part one of this article, caring for a child with special needs is already a job that requires an enormous amount of forbearance, love and tenacity. Consider then, if this task can take a lot out of a strong, intact family, how much more difficult it must be for a family going through a divorce.
Children who have disabilities and special needs will require more attention and diligence on the part of their caregivers during the divorce proceedings, simply to ensure that their emotional, as well as their financial care, is uninterrupted. In short, parents will need to prioritizes the child’s needs more than ever. For this reason, divorcing parents with disabled children need to work together in order to “weather the coming storm.”
In part one we talked about the financial aspect of this situation, namely the medical costs, trusts and insurance that parents should consider during their divorce. But there is another, equally important aspect to this circumstance – emotional.
It Takes A Village
Raising a child with special needs is usually a team effort, which includes family members, doctors, therapists and school personnel. While this may be a difficult time for everyone, there is no better time to dig in and use every available resource. Talk openly to all of the people involved in your child’s care, let them know what is happening so that they are prepared in the event of emotional outbursts or possible withdrawn behavior from the child.
Keep The Lines Open
Every child is going to react differently to the news that their family is splitting up. For special needs and disabled children, who may face greater emotional difficulties than most, this can be even harder. Therefore, it is critical that parents work together to talk to the child about the divorce in the location, situation and method that best suits the child’s needs.
Schedule & Structure
Creating a custody schedule is one of the most important items on the list for parents of special needs kids. Standard parenting schedules are not likely to work well for children with disabilities because they rarely, if ever, take into account the unique needs of the child.
In some cases, the frequent transitions and change are hard, as would be the case for a child with autism. In some instances, one parent can only find living accommodations further away from a hospital or medical center, which is not ideal for a child with seizures. Parents will need to work together to create a parenting time schedule that focuses on providing quality parenting time but allows for the individual child’s needs to be met.
Family law attorneys can help by suggesting alternative parenting schedule options or even alternative living arrangements, like “Bird’s Nest custody” where the child remains at a fixed address and the parents move in and out of the residence for the duration of their custody period.
We hope this has been helpful for those of you who may be parenting a special needs child, and considering a divorce. If you have any other questions or concerns about divorce, feel free to contact our experienced family law attorneys at 866 766 5245. We can help you through this.