There’s no question that having a child with any kind of special needs can put a strain on a marriage. Everything from misplaced guilt to added financial obligations to differences in how the child should be treated can drive spouses apart. Oftentimes, they’re both trying to come to terms with the fact that they won’t have that “perfect” family they once envisioned. Nearly to 90% of couples with special needs children divorce, according to some findings.
Whatever the reasons for your divorce, if you have a child with psychological, cognitive and/or physical issues, you’ll need to take those into consideration as you work out your custody and support agreements and parenting plan.
Can your child transition easily between two homes?
If you and your spouse are sharing custody, it’s important to consider whether it’s feasible for your child to move between homes. Do they require special equipment or modifications to their environment that you can both accommodate? Do they need to be near their doctor or therapist?
For some children, changes in their environment can be extremely upsetting. Will your child be able to transition between homes regularly and be without one parent, or do you need to consider other custody arrangements?
Are there other children to consider?
You may need to create a parenting schedule for your special needs child and another for their siblings. Of course, you’d need to consider how that time apart will affect all your children. You likely don’t want your children living separately on a regular basis.
Working out the costs and decision-making
Creating two separate households during divorce always involves added expenses. However, you may have to spend more money for modifications or equipment for one parent’s (or both parents’) new home. You’ll likely also need to spend more on caregivers. You may also need to work out an agreement for supporting your child financially well into adulthood.
It’s also crucial to determine whether you’ll both have a say in medical decisions. This can be difficult if you have different ideas about treating your child’s condition or disability.
Every divorce that involves a special needs child is highly unique. In addition to experienced legal guidance, you should consult with your child’s doctors, therapists and others who can guidance about the best parenting arrangement for your family given your circumstances.