Divorce with Special Needs Child

Divorce with Special Needs Child: Challenges

Divorce with Special Needs Child

Divorce with Special Needs Child Presents Unique Challenges. Speak to an Expert Attorney.

Divorcing parents of a special needs child face additional challenges.  When entering into a divorce with children, parents typically consider the best interests of their children. As parents of a special needs child, it is especially important to pay particular attention to how the divorce affects the child.

Raising a special needs child can create unique pressure on family relationships.  In a divorce, this anxiety and pressure can surface in both parents and child.

Financial Challenges:  Divorce with Special Needs Child

Meeting Present Financial Challenges

In every divorce, the couples joint resources will be divided.  In essence, the funds used to support one household, must now be stretched to accommodate two households.

When there is a special needs child, one parent will likely assume the role of the primary conservator of the child.  This parent may be eligible to receive a disproportionate share of the community resources.  Also, this parent may be awarded permanent support.

At this point, both parties can be feeling the threat of changes in both lifestyle and standard of living.  One parent may be assuming a more full-time caregiver role.  Unless there are unlimited resources, both parents may be finding that the income that was comfortable for one family is not so comfortable for two families.

Unfortunately, there is usually a finite amount of income.  Both parties may have to give up things they feel they deserve in order to act in the child’s best interest.  If you have not already done so, be sure to investigate social security and other benefits available for children with disabilities.

Overcoming Future Financial Challenges

Your special needs child may never be in a position to provide for his/her minimum daily needs.  During a divorce, you may not want to add this burden to your already overloaded emotions.  However, you and your spouse need to make provisions for your child’s future with proper insurance and estate planning tools.  Proper planning now prevents even more worry down the road.

Parenting Challenges: Divorce with Special Needs Child 

Conquering Care-giving Challenges

A comprehensive parenting plan is a big part of every divorce.  In the case of a divorce with a special needs child, the parenting plan is critical to your child’s well-being.  For example, changes in environment and routine may be overwhelming for your child.

Take time to carefully consider all aspects of your possession schedule, medical appointments, educational and recreational activities.  In this instance, both parents must be honest with expectations and open to creative crafting of a final order.

Mastering Communication Challenges

During your divorce, it may be helpful to seek the advice of a professional counselor for your family.  If you are having difficulty explaining things to your child, a counselor may offer suggestions.  If you are having difficulty communicating effectively with your spouse, a counselor can bridge the gap.

Communication is always important in families.  With a special needs child, anger, fear and sadness can spiral out of control.  A professional counselor, experienced in dealing with family trauma, can lessen the long-term impact of the divorce.

Moving Forward:  Divorce with Special Needs Child

Transcending Short-term Challenges

The bottom line is that the best way to get through your divorce with a special needs child is to purposely move forward.  Don’t bring the child into the divorce (never a good idea, even worse with a special needs child). Complete the divorce with as little drama as possible.  Put the short-term needs of your child first.  Be realistic about finances and parenting responsibilities.  Establish comfortable routines and maintain peaceful relations with the other parent.

Facing Long-Term Challenges

Divorce with a Special Needs Child

When Your Special Needs Child Turns 18, You Will Need a Guardianship

More decisions face you when your special needs child reaches the age of 18.  At some point you and the other parent will have to discuss guardianship.  Preferably address this together.  As parents, you can serve as co-guardians, which is most often in the child’s best interest.  If you have not been able to successfully co-parent, you will not be able to successfully serve as co-guardians.


There are a number of things to consider and weigh in any divorce action.  As the parent of a special needs child, the list is longer.  Take the time to think about your options and make responsible choices.  Remember, above all else, you are still parents for life.

Bob Leonard Law Group, PLLC

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