how is custody and visitation determined for special needs children

How Is Custody Determined For Children With Special Needs?

Goldberg JonesChild Custody, Divorce, Featured Content 2 Comments

Raising kids is tough, even in the best of circumstances. Raising a child with special needs only increases the challenges of parenthood. Throw divorce into the mix and it becomes a whole other world. Parents face a variety of legal and practical concerns, which is why finding the right child custody lawyer to handle your case is so vital.

How Is Divorce Handled With Special Needs Children?

You have specific things to consider in a divorce between parents of a special needs child. However, the biggest question remains the same as any other custody case: what’s in the best interests of the child?

In this case, the “best interests” may look different than in others, but that’s ultimately what the court wants to determine. Everything else goes from there.

Standard child custody cases already have a great deal to contend with. Where the child lives; who pays child support, and how much; how often you see the kids, and for how long; and much more.

When a child has a disability or special needs, you must also address the specific requirements of their situation.

Ideally, both parents were equally involved in caring for the child. But that’s not always the case. Often, one parent or the other winds up the primary caregiver. This tends to factor into how the court defines the child’s best interests.

Custody cases are complex in the best of times. When a child has special needs, they can become even messier. In a perfect world, the parents should work all of this out during the divorce process and the divorce settlement will reflect this. But these unique challenges also present a great deal for a child custody lawyer to deal with.

Related Reading: Best Interest Of The Child

How Are Custody and Visitation Determined?

In many cases, visitation for children with special needs takes a different form than in other situations.

For example, in children with autism, routine and structure are often cited as important factors. Stability and consistency help keep them calm and comfortable. Shuffling the kids from one house to another on alternating weekends, or for midweek overnights, may throw their regular pattern into chaos.

It’s also important to consider the mode of transport.

  • How will the child get from one place to the other?
  • Will the child travel via some form of transit or will the parents personally handle it?
  • What if medical equipment also needs to make the trip?
  • How close are the respective homes to necessary medical care?

These are just a few of the many questions that need answers.

A more common visitation arrangement may not necessarily work in every situation. You need to consider all the specific variables. Any parenting plan must account for this, which provides one more issue for a child custody lawyer working on the case.

Related Reading: Fathers’ Rights And Child Custody

Considering Medical Care

A child with special needs has exactly that, special needs. What this entails depends on the precise nature of the disability. This may involve regular medical care, specific medications, or particular dietary requirements. Certain physical surroundings may trigger a child.

Whatever the special needs, both parents and their child custody lawyers need to be equipped to deal with them. If you have a nonverbal child, it’s important to know how to communicate. If your child can’t be around crowds or lots of loud noise, it’s also vital to know not to take them to a Trail Blazers game.

As part of a divorce settlement, the parenting plan should include all of this. Whatever the daily care the child requires, the final orders must address those details. It’s important to the health and well-being of your children.

Related Reading: What Is The UCCJA? A Look At How It Protects Children

Financial Considerations

Part of ensuring your child gets the care he or she needs likely involves money, and there are also many financial angles to consider. Regular medical care and any specific equipment or medications cost money, often a lot of money.

In certain cases, special needs children may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income or other federal benefits. Divorce may also change health insurance coverage and that’s a huge issue to think about. These, and many other concerns, are vital for a child custody lawyer to consider when formulating a case.

It’s important to take steps to make sure care costs and treatments are covered and that benefits continue after divorce.

If caring for the child is a full-time job for the primary parent, spousal support payments may reflect this. In certain cases, child support payments may continue past the age of 18, when they usually cut off.

It must be noted that the phrase special needs is also incredibly broad. This is often used to cover everything from learning disabilities to chronic medical conditions and more. No two divorces are ever the same, and neither are any two special needs children. What applies to one case may not apply to another.

Related Reading: Do Courts Ever Award Split Custody?

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