For couples with children, parenting plans are a vital element in divorce proceedings. While all plans must cater to the child’s best interests, parenting plans for a child with special needs requires careful deliberation.
A crucial decision that divorcing parents must make is regarding who is most suited for the child’s primary custody. In this decision, each parent’s emotional, mental, and financial well-being, as well as their living conditions and capability to care for a disabled child, must take precedence.
Parenting Plan with Minimum Disruption of Routine
Special needs children, such as those with physical limitations, autism, developmental issues, educational needs, or medical conditions, require a parenting plan that causes minimal disruption to the child’s routine. It is critical for parenting plans for special needs children to be structured to offer consistent and reliable care.
The parent who has the primary custody of a special needs child should be able to cater to the physical demands, medical routines, and educational needs of the child as well as possess the skill and insight to manage the child’s disability.
A plan on the visitation schedule with the non-custodial parent must also focus on these issues in terms of overnight or extended visits. The non-custodial parent may have to consent to limit the frequency of their visits to minimize disruption, depending on the extent of the child’s disability.
The Positive Effect of a Collaborative Approach by Parents
To decide on how to make the necessary medical decisions for the special needs child, both parents will need to agree on a meticulous and detailed plan. It will be crucial to decide on aspects such as emergency circumstances, regular supervision, emotional or occupational therapy sessions, health insurance coverage, and financial matters on the child’s care.
In evaluating such considerations, the responsibility of caring for a disabled child should be distributed between both parents to prevent a particular parent from becoming overwhelmed with the care necessary for the child. Furthermore, these parenting plans should include educational decisions so that parents provide all the required support to ensure that the child develops into a well-adjusted adult.
The parents of a child with special needs will need to re-assess their plans to accommodate the child’s needs as they enter adulthood. The decisions on the care and supervision of a developmentally delayed adult should be overseen to ensure that both parents take responsibility for their care.
Medical insurance, estate planning, and social security benefits will make sure that their offspring are taken care of for a long time after they are no longer around.
Considerations in the Parenting Plan
Some important aspects to consider when setting forth a parenting plan for your special needs child are:
Routines are key
In the case of a child with special needs, consistency across homes is crucial. Routines can be important for the well-being of children with Autism, ADHD, and Anxiety, among others. Discuss and agree on routines that will be consistent across both homes, such as discipline, homework, parenting approaches, and bedtimes. In case you are unable to decide, consult a professional or clinician.
Be open to educating the non-primary caregiver parent.
Often, one parent is the point-person for treatment, care, homework, and other aspects. That parent may be concerned that the other cannot appropriately care for the child and may ask for greater custody. Regardless of the custody split, it is in the best interest of the child to share suggestions on how to best care for them. Being open to sharing and receiving is essential. This is not about control; the main goal is that the child gets the best attention possible.
Special needs section of the parenting plan
Develop a special needs section of your parenting plan where you agree on matters such as education, treatment, clinician contact, long-term care, and home modifications.
Appropriate caregivers if a parent is absent
If a parent is absent, discuss suitable caregivers, including the right of first refusal for the other parent to take charge, and document this decision.
Different needs of siblings
In case of siblings, it is essential to bear in mind that their needs might vary, including the custody decision. Sometimes, a special needs child may stay with one parent full-time while the siblings might go back and forth. Since every situation is unique, the parenting plan should address such nuances.
Remain in your lane
In case the other parent disagrees with you or struggles to care for the special needs child in the manner that you feel is appropriate, let it go provided there are no safety issues.
While you may never want to lay eyes on each other again, this is not about your needs this time. Regardless of your feelings towards one another, remember to put the child’s interests before yours. At times, this means acknowledging that the child needs more time with the other parent.
Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney in CT At APEX Law Firm, LLC, our legal team has handled countless divorce and co-parenting proceedings for families with unique situations. Our lawyers can help you determine what is in your child’s best interests, offering your child the best chance to live a happy and fulfilling life. For a free consultation with a compassionate and experienced family law attorney, message us online or call today at (860) 900-090