When Parents Of Special Needs Children Divorce

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediators; California Divorce MediatorsWith millions of American couples filing for a legal separation or divorce every year, the number of children losing their happy families has been on a constant rise in the recent times. It is a no-brainer, that it is the children who are most intensely affected by divorce. And if the children involved have special needs, the trauma and stress of a divorce can reach unprecedented levels. In such cases, the court of law has to make extremely complex decisions of child custody and support to ensure the best interests of the children with special needs.

The best interest of children with special needs  

More often than not, the expression ‘best interests of a child’ comprises of several factors which the judge needs to take into account while making custody and visitation related settlements for divorce cases.  Your divorce attorney needs to get well acquainted with his or her characteristic traits such as age, adaptability to change, emotional maturity and ability to deal with stress that will arise as a result of a change in the family structure. Furthermore, it is the parents’ duty to acknowledge that their situation demands for adjustments beyond their legal responsibilities, and that they need to ensure that their child receives the ideal environment for maturity and growth. 

Visitation arrangements 

In some cases, the parents may have disagreements regarding the unique needs of their child with special needs or physical disability. It is utmost essential to understand and acknowledge the fact that the typical visitation arrangements that are usually apt for children with no special needs or disabilities may not work for your special needs child. Under normal circumstances, the judge may order for alternating weekend or midweek visits, inclusive of summer or festival visits. However, for children with special needs, it is far more difficult to adjust to the sudden transition from a happy family to a single parent home. It is therefore suggested to replace shorter frequent visits with longer and more stable visitation with each parent, in order to avoid disturbing the child’s routine. To cite an example, children with autism will be highly affected by a disruption in their daily routine, which will in turn affect their behavior and performance at school.

It is utmost essential for the separating parents to understand that their special needs child also has the right to lead a normal life, and should not be made to suffer the repercussions of their failed marriage.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation