Navigating a divorce with children can be difficult, even in the best of situations, but when you and your spouse are facing a divorce with a special needs child, your custody and time-sharing decisions will require a unique and multifaceted perspective and should be given careful consideration. Children with disabilities often have special circumstances that require additional consideration, not always addressed in most common child custody agreements. Working with your lawyer and your child’s medical advisors can help your child adjust to their new living situation.
Here are the top questions you should ask yourself if you are getting a divorce with a special needs child:
1. What Preparation Should I Make Before Meeting With My Attorney?
When preparing for your first meeting with your divorce attorney, gather as much information as possible so that you can present a realistic picture of the type of care your child needs. This should include both the time required to see to your child’s individual needs as well as any extra expenses. These costs should include medication, therapy sessions or medical equipment, and special educational opportunities that your child needs to thrive. Document this information objectively and notate which parent needs to be present for any appointments. Also, gather any legal documents related to your child’s condition.
2. How Do I Know What My Child Will Need?
Once you know you’ll be faced with divorce and custody issues with a special needs child, consult with your child’s doctors. Determine what challenges your child will face and what type of living situation will be in their best interest. Although you know your child better than anyone else, your child’s doctors have likely worked with children in similar situations. Their experience and expert advice can help you anticipate challenges and give you the information you need to make informed decisions about your child’s future shared parental responsibility and time-sharing needs.
3. What Should I Tell My Divorce Attorney?
When contacting a divorce attorney for the first time, make sure to mention that you’re the parent of a special needs child. Present your divorce attorney with the information you’ve gathered above. Discuss the likelihood of your child being able to financially support him or herself in adulthood. Most child support arrangements are created with the assumption that the child will eventually be financially independent. However, if you feel that is not a realistic outcome for your child, your divorce attorney will need to pursue a different child support agreement.
4. How Should I Approach Child Custody?
Some child custody arrangements, such as shared parental responsibility and substantial time-sharing, may not be a good fit for children with disabilities. If you and your spouse are the parents of an autistic child, for example, then you know that transitions can be difficult for children on the autism spectrum. A custody arrangement that mandates frequent overnight stays at different locations may cause problems for an autistic child. Follow the advice of your child’s doctors and your divorce attorney. Amicably communicate with your spouse, to achieve the best possible situation for your special needs child after the divorce.
If you getting a divorce with a special needs child and facing time-sharing issues, it is important to begin working early to give your child the best possible outcome after your divorce. Seek a knowledgeable and experienced Florida divorce attorney who will craft and negotiate a divorce and child custody agreement that advocates your child’s special needs with the utmost consideration. Cheshire Family Law has been serving West Palm Beach since 1988, helping to keep families and individuals whole during and after a divorce. Contact us today at (561) 677-8090 for help with your upcoming divorce.