Special Needs Children in Divorce: Legal Considerations and Parental Responsibilities

There is truly no situation in which a divorce is easy. Even when both parties agree on what must be done and how to go about the split, the fallout from a divorce can last years. When there are special needs children involved, it makes an already-painful situation even more challenging. Special needs children have certain legal, developmental, and emotional considerations that must be accounted for in a divorce.

Are you facing divorce and unsure of how to protect yourself? Call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852 to set up a consultation now.

Legal Issues

The first struggle you face as you navigate divorce with special needs children is custody and visitation. Ideally, you’ll move to a schedule that is as close as possible to the child’s current struggle. Children with disabilities often struggle with changes in routine, and when you pair that with the loss of their parent’s marriage, the outcome can be devastating. Parents must work together to find a schedule that they can accommodate and stick to faithfully.

In every situation, the child’s best interests are the top priority. This is more complicated with special needs children, as they may have specific care needs that one parent is better equipped to provide. For example, if one parent has given up their career to stay home with the child and ensure that they always have the support they need, a sudden shift to 50/50 custody could be incredibly difficult.

Of course, there are also financial issues to consider. Childrearing is never inexpensive, but special needs children often have significant medical issues, specialized programming needs, and respite care needs that must be budgeted for. These factors cannot be forgotten when it comes time to discuss child support.

One of the biggest issues to discuss is the child’s needs after they reach adulthood. If the child’s disabilities are significant enough that they are unlikely to live on their own at any point, the parents should discuss their plans for their child’s future.

Parenting Strategies

The good news is that a child’s experience in divorce is largely determined by how their parents handle it. While parents should always be ready to work together for their children, it’s even more essential when special needs children are affected. Collaborative and cooperative co-parenting strategies are a crucial component of success, and co-parents will need to communicate clearly and consistently. Continuing to provide as much routine and structure for the child as possible can assist them through this transitory period.

As you may know, open communication and collaboration with an ex-partner can seem impossible when you’re going through the pain of a divorce. In this scenario, you would want to meet with a family counselor with specialized experience in this area to guide you through and help you and your ex-partner learn to co-parent. They may even be able to provide assistance with telling the child and guiding them through the transition.

Helping Special Needs Children Through Divorce

Special needs children will undoubtedly struggle as they work through their parents’ divorce, but try to remember—this is temporary. If your marriage is irrevocably broken, this is a change that must happen. Working with professionals with experience in this area can help you feel more supported as you try to care for your child. You can look for support from a family counselor, a pediatric therapist with experience navigating divorce, and a divorce attorney with a background in helping parents with special needs children.

In general, the earlier you reach out for help, the better. The further you get into the divorce process, the more complex the issues become and the more challenges you face. If you already have a support system in place when you find yourself feeling hopeless, you’ll be able to push through.

Are You Preparing for Divorce? Contact Pence Law Firm Today

If you’re considering divorce as a parent to a special needs child, we understand that you have numerous concerns and questions. That’s why we strive to answer your questions and provide guidance in your free consultation. To find out how we can help you—just call us at 304-407-7852 or fill out our online contact form to connect with a team member.