Concerns About Special Needs Children in a Texas Divorce

Concerns About Special Needs Children in a Texas Divorce

Parents of a special needs child face many challenges while raising and nurturing their child.  Many marriages falter and end in divorce due to the stressful demands required of parents with a special needs child. The stressors and emotional pressure that exists prior to the initiation of a divorce frequently accelerates during the divorce process. A special needs child is seriously affected by their parental decisions made during a divorce.

A divorce does not bring out the best in any couple. In the case of a special needs child, thoughtful and prudent care of the child should always be the main objective of both parents so the child knows that he/she is loved by both parents and is not at risk.  A special needs child will experience serious emotional and behavioral problems during this time becoming more vulnerable and not knowing what is happening in life.  The child is often afraid that he/she is losing Mom and Dad due to false and misplaced self-imposed guilt.

Many parents have already struggled with questions surrounding their child’s special needs such as correct diagnoses or the validly of treatments for their child’s conditions.  During serious custody battles, such concerns become the focus of intense parental conflicts.

Some of the more serious concerns are:

  • A child’s reactions to overly permissive or excessively rigid parenting

  • Use and dosage of prescribed medicines for a diagnosed problem

  • Proper diagnosis being made by a competent professional

  • Whether a professional label and diagnosis will be noted in school records

  • Whether a child be placed in special education classes for leaning or emotional disabilities. Whether one parent is so occupied with the special need child that the parent has lost perspective on how to best manage the child

Often one parent accepts a child’s diagnosis given by the specialist and actively advocates for the child, while the other parent may remain in denial of the child’s obvious needs. Which parent is actually and consistently working in the child’s best interests?

Special efforts are needed when setting up possession schedules for your special needs child. Both parents must understand the nature of the child’s physical/emotional problems and the level that the child can function.  When the child spends time in each parent’s home, both parents must reasonably work together and agree on a parenting approach that addresses the child’s needs.

When parents cannot agree upon the child’s actual needs and course of care, the court may appoint a specialist to conduct a complete evaluation of the child.  From this evaluation the specialist will offer specific opinions to the parents and court regarding the nature of the child’s special needs and specifically address these needs.

In a divorce involving a special needs child many joint decisions are critical to and impact a child’s self-esteem.  Other family issues and problems may need to temporally be put aside between the parents to assure a special needs child will fully receive the attention needed.  We suggest that in the divorce decree a parenting plan be included setting out specific provisions for the care of the child.

Some suggested items to include in this Plan would be:

  • Can the child be cared for in the home or an outside facility and how would these costs be covered?

  • Medical, educational, and therapeutic interventions and decision making authority

  • Treatments not covered by insurance. Who is responsible as to the authority and cost?

  • Working with the child’s school to implement plans for the educational needs of the child.

  • Care decisions on parents’ ability to work outside the home with a special needs child

  • Handling of Lifetime care and support and the cost necessary for the special needs child

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