How Do I Help My Special Needs Child During My Divorce? (Part 2)

Mother hugging her disabled daughter
Special needs kids might have a hard time with the divorce, and need more help to adjust.

Divorce is tough for everyone affected by it. Certainly this is far more so for special needs kids and their parents. Welcome back to our discussion on the challenges faced by families with special needs kids during divorce. Having talked about the financial concerns that these families need to consider, we’ll be moving on to discuss the emotional concerns that could come up during your Oakland County divorce.

Caring for a special needs child is already a job that requires enormous amounts of patience and love. Consider then, if this can be very challenging for a strong, intact family, how much more difficult it is for a family going through divorce. That’s why the parents of special needs children will need to prioritize their child’s needs more than ever during the divorce, and work together to maintain stability.

  • Structure and Consistency are Critical

Continuity and structure are important for all children. But particularly so for special needs kids. For that very reason, creating a fixed custody schedule is critical. However, standardized parenting schedules used by many Oakland County families may not work so well for children with disabilities and special needs. This is because they rarely, if ever, take into account the unique needs of the child.

In some situations, the frequent transitions and change can be very difficult, as would be the case for a child with autism. In some instances, one parent can only find a place to live further away from a hospital or medical center, which isn’t ideal for a child with seizures. For those reasons, and so many more, parents will need to work together to create a schedule that focuses on providing quality parenting time, but also allows the unique needs of the individual child to be met.

Family law attorneys can help by suggesting alternative parenting schedule options. This could also include alternative living arrangements, like “bird’s nest custody” where the child remains at a fixed address and the parents move in and out of the residence for the duration of their parenting time period. Talk to your respective divorce attorneys about your family’s unique needs, so you can all work together to create a structured schedule that best suits your child’s needs.

  • Handle it Together as a Family

Every child will react differently to the news that their family is splitting up. For special needs and disabled children that face greater emotional difficulties than most, this can be even harder. It’s critical that parents of special needs kids work together, discussing the divorce with their child in the way that’ll make it easiest for them to manage emotionally. This means taking into consideration many factors, including the location, situation, time of day, frequency and duration of parenting time and any other factors that could influence how well that child copes with the news. Involving counselors or others that are involved with the child can also be helpful.

  • Accept Help When you Need it

It can be hard for people to admit that they need help, especially when the situation they’re in might be considered by some to be “of their own making.” But when it comes to helping your special needs or disabled child through a tough family transition, it’s important to put aside personal qualms and focus on what’s best for the child.

Raising a child with special needs is usually a team effort that includes family members, doctors, therapists and school personnel from in and around Oakland County. While the divorce might make this a difficult time for everyone, there’s no better time to dig in and use every available resource. Talk openly to all of the people involved in your child’s care, and let them know what’s happening, so that they’re prepared in the event of emotional outbursts or behavior changes from your child.

Do you need help with your Oakland County divorce?

Join us next time as we wrap up this series by looking at the fundamental basics of divorce as it applies to parents of special needs kids, and what they need to consider during the divorce process in order to best meet their child’s needs.

Until then, if you or a loved one are considering divorce in the Oakland County or Macomb County areas, we can help. Our skilled and experienced family law attorneys have assisted countless families with special needs children to work through their divorce processes and achieve the best possible outcomes.

You can reach our Farmington Hills office at (248) 479-6200.