Child custody is a taxing process to go through, and can often cause conflict between former spouses. The strain on many parents going through custody hearings may cause a child to struggle emotionally. The best interest of the child must be considered in all custody cases, however, with special needs children, additional considerations must be made. Here, the qualified divorce and child custody attorneys at Rodier Family Law discuss the process of establishing custody of a child with special needs, and how this process can impact their well-being and growth. 

Joint Custody May Cause Anxiety for Special Needs Children

When going through the custody process, many former spouses try to work out an agreement in which both parents are able to spend time with their children. However, this process can become more difficult depending on the needs of the child, as well as the distance between households. While some children do not mind the transition between two households, children with autism, separation anxiety or other needs often do better when a daily routine is in place and may struggle through this transition period. Additionally, if their needs are severe enough, they may struggle to deal with consistent change without regression or additional issues. To prevent emotional strain on your child, consider creating a joint custody agreement in which one parent spends specific times with the child, such as on weekends or after school. This will minimize disruption on the part of the child, and help foster growth during an otherwise stressful time. 

Educational and Medical Needs Are Not Always Equal

In addition to establishing joint or sole custody, examining the educational and medical needs of your child can also play a role in custody agreements. Healthcare access and educational opportunities may be limited in some areas, and if one parent does not live in an area with access to resources for their special needs child, both the parent and child can suffer. For example, if one parent lived in an area with access to specialty healthcare providers and highly rated hospitals for a child with a physical disability, granting primary custody to him/her may be the better decision. Additionally, access to schools that offer special education and an array of programs catered to your child’s needs can help make the transition less disruptive in their daily life. While this does not mean that parents can’t have joint custody of the child, establishing where the child will reside and who will be responsible for their education and medical needs is essential. 

Consider Daily Care Availability and Social Needs

While many children with special needs are able to go about their daily lives without much help, some children require more consistent care. When establishing custody, consider the income levels and current jobs of both parents, and how this will affect the child. If a parent is gone at a 9-5 job, they must either be able to adjust their work schedule or hire a caregiver for their child. However, if a parent has the option of working part-time remotely, caregiving may be easier and more affordable. Finally, consider the social needs of your child, and how custody decisions may impact those relationships. If you or your child had previous relationships with families who also have special needs children, taking away those relationships may impact your child emotionally and mentally. Ensuring that your child has some social outlet or support system if you become the primary guardian is vital to help them through this change in custody.

See How the Family Law Attorneys at Rodier Family Law Can Help

Custody decisions are tough for any family to make, and when a child with special needs is involved, the process can become increasingly complex. Researching how the resources you have around you can impact the emotional and physical success of your child can clarify which decision is in the child’s best interest. To learn more about the child custody process and ensure that you are properly prepared, contact the Harford County attorneys at Rodier Family Law today.