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
When you think of domestic violence or Intimate Partner Violence between couples what usually comes to mind? A woman being hurt or abused? This is the majority of public thought in the United States, yet the latest studies on domestic violence are showing a new and very alarming trend: notable rising rates on Intimate Partner Violence against Men.
In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. This was a serious eye opener on violence and men. In the United State for the previous 12 months, app. 5,365,000 men had been victims of intimate Partner physical violence compared with 4,741,000 women. This physical violence includes slapping, pushing, & shoving. Also tracked were more serious threats of being beaten, burned, choked, kicked, slammed with a heavy object or hit with a fist. Roughly 40% of the victims of severe physical violence were men. Again in 2011 the CDC repeated the survey and the results were almost identical!
Domestic violence (intimate partner violence) against men include emotional, sexual, verbal, physical abuse or threats of abuse. It happens in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Have you ever felt scared of your partner and changed your behavior since you were afraid of what your partner might do? If so, you may be in an abusive relationship.
Are you being abused? What are the warning signs? What kind of abuse are you experiencing?
Emotional & Verbal Abuse:
- Calls you names, belittles you, or puts you down regularly
- Is jealous and possessive and accuses you without just cause of being unfaithful
- Tries to isolate you from family and friends
- Tries to totally control your life: how you spend your money, what you wear and where you may be going
- Constantly makes unreasonable demands for your attention.
- Blames you for her violent behavior and says you deserve it
- Gets very angry or violent when drinking alcohol or using drugs
- Biting, burning, or choking you
- Hitting, punching, or slapping
- Pushing, shoving, or throwing things at you
- Knifing or burning you
- Forcibly holding you down
- Hurting you, your children or your pets
- Forcing you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will
- Hurting you during sex
- Forcing you to have unsafe sex
Threats and Intimidation:
- Threatens to hurt / kill you
- Threatens to kill themselves or the children
- Stalks you
- Reads all your emails, texts, or mail
- Destroys things that belong to you
Being a man in an abusive relationship, it may seem hard finding the help that you need. It has been estimated that about 20% of men who call the police to report an abusive spouse /partner are themselves arrested for domestic violence.
You do not have to stay in an abusive relationship. You need to start by discussing your situation with either someone you trust or a health professional who can give you guidance. Gather evidence on what is happening, photographs of any injury or bruises experienced during a confrontation, threatening emails or texts that can be used in a court of law, make a list of people who have experienced confrontations between you and your intimate partner.
Stay away from any type of violence with your partner since she may try to put you into a damaging situation with the police to make you look like the abuser or try to entrap you.
You can overcome these challenges and escape from the abusive intimate partner. If you have a family or are concerned for your well-being, contact a legal professional who can help you break from this situation and also work to get your children out of harm’s way. Just remember, if you are not available for her domestic violence, a predator will look for someone else to take your place and children are easy targets!
Times have changed! Mothers’ having primary custody of the children is not always the accepted social presumption as in the past. Courts, legislatures and juries are becoming more aware of the vital necessity of father’s being involved in the lives of their children. Children with positive father involvement have fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and perform better in school.
Recent research suggests that father involvement is essential to a child’s social, moral, and physical growth during the adolescent period. A father’s involvement during pregnancy affects multiple areas of child development and family well- being, from prenatal care, to the likelihood that the father will provide ongoing financial and emotional support. This body of research is gaining momentum. Local and regional governmental agencies are focusing more and more on parental father involvement in the lives of children.
As a result of the continuing evolution of fathers’ rights, Courts are now recognizing a father’s ability to care for his children as an equal to that of the mother. Starting out on an equal plane, the Court may look to which parent is more stable, has a superior income, has a parenting plan in place for the child and is capable of providing proper child care and spending more quality time with the child.
As a father, how can you increase your chances of getting child custody in Texas? You must be a good father and spend time with your children by involving yourself in their daily lives. You need to be responsible and reliable to the needs of your kids. Know and participate in all aspects of their lives. This includes school activities, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular events and getting to know and bonding with their friends.
Reflect on your own personal experiences as a child growing up and think about what was really important to you and your parent’s interaction during that period.
If a father voluntarily gives up rights to his children based on prejudices of the past in the Court system, he will feed a mother’s confidence and sponsor unnecessary ongoing litigation. The number one mistake made by fathers in the court system today is a failure to take the time to learn how the system works. Failing to learn how the family law system works may doom your case. Once you have learned the ins and outs of the family law system you will need to form a viable plan, set goals and never relent in enforcing your rights as a father.
Five of the biggest mistakes men make in a legal action are: 1) failing to respond to the legal action itself; 2) obtaining incorrect legal advice (from friends and family rather than a legal expert); 3) signing a settlement agreement that is not in agreement with and later deeply regretting it; 4) failing to perform under the actual settlement agreement signed; and 5) getting frustrated and/or acquiescing to unreasonable demands and orders.
Some of the things you may want to consider as you prepare for the custody battle are as follows:
- Who has the financial ability to best care for the child(ren)? Be sure to have income tax verification, W-2 Forms and other financial information available.
- Form a parenting plan (child care, after school care, transportation, pediatrician, etc.).
- Who is more stable and/or can provide the best home for the child (ren)?
- Where has the child (ren) been attending school? Is it possible to keep the child in the same school district?
- Prepare a chronology of events leading up to the divorce including treatment of the child(ren), time spent with the child(ren), activities with the child(ren), the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Consider if a home study should be prepared regarding each home of the child.
- Consider whether a psychological evaluation should be done on the mother?
- Is drug testing necessary? (Be sure to request hair follicle drug testing.)
- Is there an alcohol or other addiction problem in the home?
- Who can provide the best moral upbringing for the children?
- Is there evidence such as pictures, video tapes, etc. that may help your case?
- Avoid unnecessary compromising photos or data on Facebook or other social networking sites.
List any other relevant issues you feel may be important to your child custody case before you meet with an attorney about your rights as a father.
Many professions create impositions on conservators making a standard possession order inapplicable and unworkable. The Court may deviate from a standard possession order if the order is inappropriate or unworkable in reference to the schedules of both the conservators and the child. Unique professions and irregular school schedules for children allow the Court to have flexibility to deviate from a standard possession order that is in the Best Interest of the Child. There are multiple ways in which the Court may depart from a standard possession order to fulfill the needs of all parties involved with the custody of the child.
First, the Family Code § 153.254 states that the Court will be allowed deference to modify the standard possession order if work schedules of either conservators or the school schedule of the child is irregular. The Court must attempt to narrowly tailor the modifications to keep the new possession order as similar to the standard possession order as possible. This instance most commonly occurs when the Managing Conservator and the Possessory Conservator cannot reach an agreement and one of the two Conservators has a unique profession such as a firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot. The working hours of these jobs allow the Court to modify the standard possession order even if both of the parties do not comply with the changes. The modifications must be made only if it is in the Best Interest of the Child.
Secondly, the standard possession order may always be modified if it is by the mutual agreement of both the Managing Conservator and Possessory Conservator. Family Code § 153.007 is the Agreed Parenting Plan Statute and allows for both parties to agree on a standard possession order for the child. This statute was passed to promote amicability in settlement for child custody issues and to give flexibility to the parents if they are willing to agree on custody terms. The Agreed Parenting Plan must be in the Best Interest of the Child for the Court to approve. If the Court grants the Agreed Parenting Plan then the Managing or Possessory Conservator will have a remedy as a matter of law for any violation of the agreement committed by either party.
Finally, both Conservators may enter into a Mediated Settlement Agreement under Family Code § 153.0071. A Mediated Settlement Agreement is the only time in which the Court will NOT look at the Best Interest of the Child when granting the custody agreement.
The Mediated Settlement Agreement § 153.0071 must be:
- In bold, underlined, and capital letters that the agreement is NOT REVOCABLE
- Signed by Both Parties to the agreement
- Signed by the lawyers (if represented) of each party
The Mediated Settlement Agreement is binding and not revocable so if the Conservators wish to go this route they must understand that what is in the agreement will be held as binding. This method can be used to modify or change a standard possession order and the Court will not look at the Best Interest of the Child regarding the agreement, unless there exists a credible threat of domestic violence.
These are the methods in which a unique possession order may be obtained to accommodate irregular schedules or working hours of both the conservators. Any possession order must be correctly drafted and all future contingencies must be accounted for. An experienced lawyer must be contacted to safeguard an individual’s custody rights of their children and to make sure that a fair custody arrangement is obtained.