Going through a divorce in California is difficult for all children, but it is even more stressful for special needs children. Co-parenting when you have a special needs child requires extra considerations, both during and after your divorce. Nevertheless, you can take steps to minimize the transition and help your child through this stressful time.
Flexibility is essential
Developing a co-parenting plan with your spouse is one of the most important components of your custody agreement. If you plan on sharing physical custody, your schedule must be sensitive to your child’s needs. Some kids with developmental disabilities may not fully understand the reasons for the divorce and may resist the schedule change. Remain open with your spouse when devising this schedule, and realize that you may have to alter your plans if things don’t work out.
Coordinating critical decisions about healthcare and education will likely mean you and your spouse will continue to have considerable involvement in each other’s lives. Consult support individuals such as physical therapists, doctors, school officials and others on any special equipment you require for both homes or creative ways that you can help your child navigate the transition.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. Raising a special needs child can be highly challenging. When required, don’t be afraid to ask for a break, even if it means contacting your spouse. Open communication is vital.
Special needs co-parent can change
Despite your divorce, most parents can agree that they love their children, especially ones with special needs. Over time, co-parenting agreements may require changes as children mature. Special needs children will have changing needs, too, but depending on the level of disability, you may need to continue those agreements even as the child enters adulthood.
Recognize that if your special needs child acquired a mental or physical disability before age 18, both spouses may have to provide support in perpetuity. You may have to appear in court to determine how much each parent will pay based on the child’s disability resources and other factors, such as your age and health.