A special needs child requires structure and predictability in their daily schedules. The slightest deviation can compound a special needs child's anxiety. Indeed, parents of a special needs child are quite familiar with the meltdowns that can result from the most minute modifications to that child's schedule. Conversely, a strict maintenance to a consistent schedule can alleviate a special needs child's anxiety over time - as it provides comfort and certainty in a world they struggle to process and understand.
The need for consistency is particularly important in crafting a parenting time schedule for divorcing parents of a special needs child. In a divorcing family with non-special needs children, the parents often spend months or years contesting a custody and parenting time schedule. Parent #1 may wish to have primary custody of the children with Parent #2 only having overnight parenting time with the children every other weekend. On the other hand, Parent #2 may propose in response that the parties implement an equal parenting time arrangement. This typical controversy frequently results in protracted litigation, and is often motivated by the parent's desires rather than the children's best interests, such as to reduce a future child support obligation.
While this protracted litigation is usually never in the children's best interests, parents with a special needs child do not have the luxury of engaging in same. As expected, the special needs of that child must control. Parents should consider these special needs in developing a mutually agreeable custody and parenting time arrangement that supports the best interests of the special needs child. A variety of experts can be employed to assist divorcing parents in reaching a beneficial custody and parenting time agreement. If you believe that your special needs child will benefit from a specifically delineated custody and parenting time agreement, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.
Written by Aaron Cohen, Attorney