How does divorce affect special needs children?

As the parent of a special-needs child, you likely understand the time and attention his or her care and education requires and how these challenges may contribute to strife between you and your partner. 

At some point, you may consider divorce as the only option for restoring order to your life, but understanding how it could affect your special-needs child may help you both with surviving the transition. 

Divorce and disability  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that the number of children with developmental disabilities is increasing, with a 1.6 percent gain between 2015 to 2017.  While not all couples of disabled children divorce, before you opt for this choice, considering the needs and future of your disabled child may help you form an effective care and education plan for his or her future. 

Custody and visitation 

As you prepare for divorce, your child’s daily needs may affect your custody and visitation decisions. These choices can vary depending on the nature of your child’s disability, such as: 

  • Medication and dosing requirements  
  • Mobility  
  • Transportation needs  
  • The risk of a medical emergency  

If you want your child to live with you, the courts may consider the child’s desires, if he or she is physically disabled but mentally sound, and this may apply to visitation decrees as well. 

Planning for the future  

If your child’s disability makes independence as an adult an impossibility, you and your ex-spouse may want to plan for both the near and long-term future. Consider creating living wills that provide for your child in the event of your deaths. 

Your choice to divorce can affect the entire family. Considering the needs of your disabled child now can help you ensure his or her care remains your top priority.