If you are a parent who is raising a child with autism, then you know that your child has special needs that many of his or her peers do not. As a parent of three young children, I understand the stresses, successes, and everything in between when it comes to raising kids. However, none of my children have special needs in this way, so I do not have the first-hand experience as a parent to discuss the challenges that you, as a special needs parent, likely face on its daily basis. However, I think this is such an important topic because how your child's special needs are met or not met daily can impact their future and development.
Think back to when your child was diagnosed with autism. You likely remember where you were, what time of day it was, and who it was that made the diagnosis. Autism has become a more common diagnosis in our society for children. As such, we in the family law community have become more experienced in handling child custody and divorce cases where autistic children are present. With that being said, I think it is important for us to go through how a possession schedule that place is your child first is necessary for him or her to have a fighting chance at developing at the pace he or she is capable of.
As a parent of an autistic child, you're likely aware that autistic children live on a spectrum of functionality. Many children with autism are extremely high functioning and, with proper medication and counseling, can lead lives that are virtually indistinguishable from other children who do not have this condition. On the other hand, some of you may parents children with autism who are not quite as high functioning and have more problems such as interacting with other people, the mental ability to recall and remember information, and disciplinary problems in school. Taking together, autism is a condition that limits your child from a mental perspective and can limit your child in terms of their social, emotional, physical, and familial development.
This is what I mean when I say that autism is a condition that not only is fairly common for families but is also important for you and your spouse to be able to work together on in a divorce. Presenting a united front about your child's upbringing as he or she develops with this condition is incredibly crucial, especially as time goes on. Suppose you can work out solutions to problems with your Co-parent better off in your post-divorce life. On the other hand, if you struggled to develop solutions to your autistic child's problems, then it is your child who will suffer the most.
One of the major ways that I see children with autism struggle during and after a divorce in Texas is with the possession schedule and Visitation structures around their lives. Or parents facing child custody and divorce circumstances primarily focus on dividing the child's time between two parents. You may have special concerns regarding your own case because of your child's needs and the potential detriment to their well-being if comments insulations cannot be reached. While children are more resilient than we may give them credit for, I also think that children can be harmed in ways that we may not be able to foresee if reasonable minds cannot come together to help that child.
I think a good place for us to start is the idea that the state of Texas believes it is in the best interest of your child for both you and your spouse to play an inactive and involved role in your child's upbringing. This means that it is incredibly unlikely that you would have sole custody of your child in that your spouse would not be able to have possession and visitation regularly with your child. This is true even if you are named the parent who can designate your child's primary residence. The bottom line is that you need to become comfortable and accept that your spouse will play a role in your child's life, even if this is something that is upsetting to contemplate.
Rather than focus on the aspects of your case that are unpleasant, you should turn those issues around and use them as a focus on your child. Your child's ability to succeed in school, in extracurricular activities, and at home depends upon both you and your spouse not only sharing custody but sharing responsibility to enforce structure and discipline in that child's life. Your autistic child may be more rebellious or more prone to anger than other children, but he or she has the same love for you and your spouse that any other child has towards their parents.
All of your efforts to parent your autistic child in the best way possible can go up in smoke if you do not build upon the time that you have with your child after your divorce. In fact, autistic children can even grow to resent my parent or the other if they feel out of place, ignored, or otherwise not showing the attention they need. This is especially difficult when your child is young and cannot intellectually grasp these issues or communicate their problems to you directly. As such, as the parent, it is incumbent upon you to get it right the first time during divorce when negotiating on a custody schedule with your soon-to-be ex-spouse.
I want to spend the remainder of today's blog post discussing how important custody is if your child is autistic. The right custody schedule for your child is important, no matter what your particular circumstances are. Still, I believe if your child has autism, the circumstances are heightened in terms of importance as far as making sure that your child is set up to succeed when he or she is at either your home or your spouse's and is away from both of you in school. It can be difficult for an autistic child to separate struggles at home from performing in the classroom. With all the other circumstances going on in our world right now, I think it is important to step back and assess this particular situation as crucial for your child now and into the future.
Choosing the right custody schedule for your child with autism
The first thing I will note is that unless you are comfortable and able to negotiate issues regarding custody directly with your spouse, you will likely not be able to come up with the best solution for your child. The reason for this is that most family law cases are settled before trial, and that means that your case will focus much more on negotiation than it will on is she's regarding a trial. With that being said, if you and your spouse are not on good terms right now, then it can be important for you to figure out how to put aside your differences and focus on the needs of your child.
Every family is different, and yours is no exception. You know the main issues in your divorce and what issues you all need to overcome to accomplish mutually held goals, like doing what is best for your child. With that being said, you can put your energy and focus into approaching your case from the perspective of doing what is right for your child first and foremost and putting your own needs somewhat on the backburner. That does not mean that you can completely ignore what is best for you in favor of thinking only about your child. Ultimately your goals in your child goals are interconnected, especially on this issue.
However, when you consider that your special needs child requires oversight and intervention that is nearly constant, the same needs to be your approach when it comes to negotiating a custody schedule with your spouse in a divorce. You need to be intentional, and you need to have plans that exhibit how intentional you are about creating favorable outcomes for your child in the future. Well, no one can tell the future as far as where your child will be in a couple of years in terms of their mental state. Your child will indeed do better with an inactive and involved parent in their corner.
Many autistic children tend to Succeed more when they can be with and spend time with their parents on a consistent infrequent basis. Whereas some children do better when they can see their parents for longer stretches of time, the autistic child made do better when they can use more frequently siege parent for shorter stretches of time. Therefore, a week on, the week off schedule where Visitation is alternated between parents may not be for the best in your circumstances.
Rather, you all may see some benefit from splitting custody where you are with your child for a few days, and then a possession exchange occurs where your ex-spouse is then in possession of your child for a few days. This allows each of you to see your child with great frequency and keeps the Visitation period short enough where a child does not become stuck, so to speak, in one house and not wanting to visit the other parent in another house. The frequent exchanges of possession may also give your child the perception that you and your Xbox are still a cohesive team working together rather than two people sharing custody brought together only by a family court order.
I would even consider inserting language into a final decree of divorce custody order that states that your child should have phone calls, Skype, or FaceTime opportunities with the other parent who is not currently in possession of the child during each period of possession. This allows the child to maintain a relationship with each parent, even when they do not have a child. Again, I think this is a good idea in the sense that your autistic child will better be able to feel the co-parenting nature of your household instead of feeling like he or she is being passed off in between each household.
At the end of the day, I recommend that you begin to think about what your child needs early on in your case- likely even before the case begins. Depending on your child's age, you can even speak to him or her directly about what they believe will allow them to be put in the best possible situation as far as family life and school life are concerned. Otherwise, the best general advice that I can give you regarding custody and your autistic child is to put your child's best interests first and lean on your attorney as much as possible.
Questions about the material presented in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material that you have read through in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and the services provided to our clients by our attorneys and staff. We take a great deal of pride in serving our community in the family courts of Southeast Texas and will be honored to do the same for you and your family.
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The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.