Co-parenting a special needs child after divorce

Many Missouri residents ending a marriage do not have an easy time working out the details. In most cases, parents who decide to separate encounter a particular set of challenges as they navigate new circumstances co-parenting their child. Some parents going through the divorce process have to work through additional considerations if their child has special needs, and this situation can be especially difficult in the case of a high conflict divorce. An expert offers a few tips for divorcing parents of a child with special needs (ADHD, autism and anxiety, to name only a few).

Firstly, while most children thrive best with consistent routines, many children with special needs especially require consistency between parents’ homes. Parents in this type of situation should confer and agree upon routines around homework, bedtime and other daily activities. Secondly, sometimes, one parent has been the primary caregiver for a child with special needs, and that person may not trust the other parent to properly care for the child. However, divorcing parents of this type are smart to realize the wisdom of sharing with the other parent helpful information about caring for the child, rather than seeking greater custody.

Any divorcing parents intending to co-parent a child should create a written, mutually agreed upon parenting plan. Parents of a child with special needs should be sure to also include in this document details about treatment, long-term care, household modifications, diet, etc. as well as appropriate caregivers in the absence of a parent. In cases in which a special needs child has siblings, divorcing parents may consider different custody arrangements for the children; for example, if the situation works best for everyone, a special needs child may remain in one home full-time, while siblings move back and forth between both parents’ homes.

As with most divorce situations, no matter how contentious the parents’ relationship, both individuals are wise to put their feelings for each other aside, be flexible and understand creating the best environment for the child is most important. Certainly, any divorcing couple aiming to successfully co-parent a child will have to work out certain details, but often when a child with special needs is involved, this process takes on an additional layer of difficulty. For legal guidance with custody issues as well as all aspects of divorce, many Missouri residents turn to an experienced family law attorney.

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