Special Needs Children Change the Dynamic in Divorce Proceedings
It is no secret that raising a special-needs child can be a strain on a family and many marriages do not survive. The divorce rates among parents of special-needs children have been estimated as high as 85 percent.
The medical challenges children face are as diverse as the children themselves. From attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder to cerebral palsy or epilepsy, children’s health care can be a big strain on a marriage.
“We see a lot of clients with special-needs children and they usually know coming in the door that they have a tough road ahead as co-parents,” said Zephyrhills divorce lawyer Marcie Baker. “The key is for everyone to agree that the children must never be used against the co-parent.”
A judge is always going to focus on what is best for the child, but in many cases a judge or a mediator will need the divorcing parents to explain what will be best for the child.
“Every child is going to have a unique set of circumstances,” Baker said. “A judge or a mediator is going to know right away if a co-parent is trying to use the child against the other parent.”
Baker explains that the best tactic is to go in with the sincere desire to do what is best for the child at each stage of their life and their abilities.
“Sometimes settlements that seem unfair when a special-needs child is three years old will loosen up when the child is five and has a better understanding of time,” Baker said. “The key will be flexibility. Unfortunately, flexibility may have been a component of why the marriage did not make it to begin with, but it becomes extra important during the custody phase of a divorce. The parent who exhibits the most flexibility in considering the needs of the child will be viewed more favorable by most judges.”