Divorces with children are painful and emotional under the best of circumstances, but a divorce with a “Special Needs Child” is usually a very complex and mentally stressful situation for all family members involved.
The main goal in a “Special Needs” divorce is that all decisions affecting a child with disabilities must be in the “Best Interest of the Child.”
What is the “Best Interest of the “Special Needs Child”? Often this is the very reason that the parents are divorcing. The parents cannot agree on the existence of a disability or the best approach needed for care and support for their special needs child. Many times a medical/neutral professional will need to be involved to help the parents transition the new “after” divorce life of the child and parents.
When working with parents of a “Special Needs Child”, our attorneys focus on the most critical issues impacting the child and the family unit.
Some of these important issues are:
- Keeping the relationships between the family members agreeable in making the necessary decisions concerning visitation and transitions between both parents’ homes. You child needs contact with both parents unless there is an abuse or addiction issue or the other parent’s home is an unsafe environment for the “Special Needs” Child.
- Agreed upon health and medical care issues including special therapies to address the child’s needs. Let the child know that both parents are in agreement on the care for the child.
- Special social and recreational opportunities and appropriate educational programs are available for the child and her/his disability and should be agreed upon by both parents, if possible.
- Coordinate structured and regular visitation dates with same place drop off points. Give your child a calendar with visitation dates and let her/him be prepared to visit the other parent.
- Helping the parent to find a support group of family, friends, counselors and neighbors to help your family with your “Special Needs” Child. This help may come in many forms, mental and physical support, financial planning or just a good hug to say “you are ok”.
What is very important in a “Special Needs” Divorce is to realize what is “normal” in most divorces may not be the norm here. There are many important situations that will have to be resolved before the divorce can be finalized. The divorced parents of the “Special Needs” Child will continue to have to work together for what is best for their child.
Other serious considerations to settle:
- The transitions after a divorce on living arrangements and visitations for the child. It will be difficult to use a standard visitation schedule and a special parenting plan will have to be agreed upon to meet all of the child’s needs.
- The divorce decree will have to be custom designed to make sure the needs of the child will be met for the child’s entire life. The final divorce decree may have to be modified for the child’s benefit.
- Be knowledgeable of the financial aspect of your “Special Needs” Child. What type of care will be needed on a daily basis and will one parent have to give up all monetary benefits from employment outside of the home to take care of the child.
- List all expenses of raising this child: medical costs, food for special nutritional diets, special medical equipment needed for use of child, special schooling and transportation needs. This is very important to make sure the needs of the child will be met.
- Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: this amount must be worked out to ensure the caregiving parent will be able to afford all need of the child and their household. Many times this parent will not be able to work out of the home because of the constant care for the child. This will usually continue for the entire life of the child, so the divorce decree will have to reflect this continued support and cost of living changes.
When choosing a qualified lawyer for your “Special Needs” Divorce, it is important that the lawyer is familiar with what is involved with this type of divorce and understands the importance of tailoring a custom decree that will fit the best interest of the child and family situation for the duration of the child’s existence. It won’t be easy, but if the parents will work together, it can be achievable!
Many headlines are common as to in what ways Domestic Physical Violence and Physical Abuse affects families and individuals. Consider however the silent spoiler of marriage: Emotional Abuse!
Most domestic abuse and violence commences with deliberate on-going negative behavior by one partner/parent against another family member as the abuser demeans and dismantles the victim’s feelings of self-worth and independence.
Just because a person does not end up in the hospital as a victim of physical abuse, emotional scars and a resulting negative self-image may adversely impact the individual for their entire life.
Emotional abuse often includes verbal abuse, controlling behavior, intimidation and isolation. Most emotional abusers will also make multiple violence threats and orchestrate other non-physical types of punishments if their victims refuse to blindly obey.
Since “the Abuser’s Goal is Always Control”, economic/ financial control is one of the most common forms of emotional abuse. Victims have feelings of “no way out” from abusive relationships and strict financial control imposed by the abuser results in spiraling hopelessness.
What are some serious financial control issues to look out for? Do you have a problem?
Total controlling of all family expenses.
Withholding money and credit cards and strict, unrealistic allowance restrictions.
Withholding basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, medical needs).
Controlling your choice of career and prevention or obstruction from gainful employment.
Sabotaging your job by constantly calling you, causing problems with your boss or associates, and causing you to miss work.
Stealing money from you.
All types of abuse are sick, but emotional abuse the silent spoiler of lives is often overlooked until it is too late. Every family member in these cases may be effected and scared for years. Many children who are tainted by abuse never completely know a normal loving relationship with a partner, spouse, or child since their low self-esteem prevents normal intimacy with others.
Yes, it is the Holiday Season and no, you are not happy! Yes, there is A Grinch who is trying to steal Christmas, but it does not have to be you. From personal experience, sometimes when you personally are at a very low point in your life, think about others (children, other family members, and friends) who love you and need someone to make their lives happy!
From practicing family law for a long time now, I believe there are elements in divorce that will never change:
- You can not make someone love you and stay with you if they choose not to.
- The only person that you can be completely responsible for in behavior is YOURSELF!
- If you choose to have a bad attitude and try to hurt your EX by alienating your children, then not only are you not winning the divorce game, but you are causing serious damage to your Children. Even if you win, you are a loser. The Kids didn’t ask for this Divorce, they are often stuck because Mom and Dad couldn’t be happy together!
After considering these ideas and deciding no, you are not happy, try giving some effort to help make your family happier this Holiday Season., Like the Grinch, maybe your family’s joy will help you feel just a little bit better!
Here are my “New Divorce No No Rules” that will make the Holiday Season happier for the entire family including your EX:
- No talking bad about the other spouse! This is your battle, not the kids! The kids are still related to their other parent and love that parent.
- Work on new traditions that involve all family members with their likes and desires. Mommy and Daddy are not together anymore, a great time for some fun changes in the Holidays. Look to a wonderful new future and adventure for the family and don’t look back!
- Get with your ex-spouse and determine the holiday schedule. Share this schedule with the kids so they will know what is going on and what time will be shared with both parents. Meanness will not be tolerated, be nice!
- Talk with your ex-spouse about coordinating presents. Many divorcing couples try to one up the other parent and this really puts the child into a very uncomfortable situation. Also, a smart money saving idea.
- Talk with the children on their ideas for the Holidays. If they would like to have the entire family together for possibly Christmas Eve, or Christmas Morning, this may be a great idea! Remember: this is not totally about your feelings, it is about the love and needs of your family.
“The more you give in to the love of your family, the better you will feel in your heart.”
You, my friend will eventually get over this hurt and go on with your life, but it is always the decisions you make to help your children cope with this family split that will determine your true character as a parent and a person.
Hoping you and your family will have a wonderful Holiday Season and this blog has help to put a smile on your face! —-Mark A. Nacol