autistic kids

Challenges for Divorces with Special Needs Children

Divorce is never easy, but it’s even harder with children. It may feel nearly impossible when you have children with special needs. While divorce may be harder with special needs children, it is manageable if you plan ahead, tread carefully, and work with a plan.

Learn more about the unique challenges you may face and how you can prepare for them. For more personalized assistance with your divorce, call Olmstead & Olmstead at 703-361-1555.

The Child’s Emotional Needs and Routine

Any child is likely to respond negatively to divorce, but it can be particularly life-changing for a child with special needs. Children with these needs are often very reliant on their routine, and one parent moving out or suddenly spending less time with them can be a huge disruption to that routine.

They may be unable to express their emotional needs, which often results in acting out or behavioral issues. Getting children into counseling that is appropriate for their developmental level is essential during a divorce.

Medical Care and Insurance

Children with special needs often have demanding health concerns that require regular checkups and access to emergency care. In many cases, these children have access to state-funded care. This may change with a divorce, and it may become a battle over who must provide primary or secondary insurance for the child in question. This is one area in which it’s crucial for divorcing parents to come together, overcome their negative feelings for each other, and do what is best for their child.

It’s also important to have a frank discussion about the child’s medical expenses and care needs. Since appointments are generally more frequent and involved than they are for children without special needs, you should talk about who is able to attend those appointments and how the expenses should be covered.

For example, if one parent has a more flexible work schedule or has been a stay-at-home parent for the child’s entire life, it may be better for them to take that responsibility in exchange for more time to themselves on select weekends.

Educational Options and Enrichment

Education and enrichment are core aspects of every kid’s life, but they are even more essential for children with developmental needs. Not only is school a place where they learn about academics, but it may also be the place where they get occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy.

It’s where they have much-needed socialization with peers and learn how to navigate life with their disabilities. If at all possible, you may want to choose a parenting plan that allows the child to stay in their current school and on their current schedule.

This is also true if the child has enrichment programs they attend. Many children attend after-school programs that allow them to explore their community, participate in activities, and socialize with peers with similar needs. Try to find a way to meet your child’s needs in this area.

The Child’s Needs as They Grow

Depending on the severity of your child’s needs, your primary parenting tasks may not change after they reach adulthood. This is something that you absolutely must talk about during divorce.

If your child will need ongoing care for the rest of their adult life, that may mean that the non-custodial parent has to pay child support for longer. It may also mean that both parents need to plan to contribute to their child’s long-term care costs. Providing care for an adult with special needs is extremely expensive and significantly changes a parent’s life, so this should be a top priority during your discussions and negotiations with your ex.

You may also want to talk about estate planning. If it’s likely that your child will outlive both parents, talk to your ex about creating a special needs trust or otherwise planning to provide for the child throughout their lifetime.

Discuss Your Concerns with Olmstead & Olmstead

This type of divorce can be draining, but you don’t have to go through it alone. With the help of the team at Olmstead & Olmstead, you can feel supported and prepared as you divorce. Schedule a time to talk with us now. Just call us at 703-361-1555 or send us a message online.

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