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Custody of a special-needs child: Things to know

Child custody cases are difficult no matter what your circumstances are and no matter what your children are. Children of different age groups and circumstances each have their own challenges that you and your co-parent must confront within the context of your custody case. In custody case does not just deal with visitation, possession, child support or any of those issues. Rather, a custody case gets into difficult issues surrounding all those topics and more. Couple the emotional difficulties associated with addressing these problems with the fact that you are going through difficult personal matters yourself and you have a potentially combustible situation. Those of you reading this podcast have ever gone through a family law case know what I'm talking about. 

If you are going through a child custody case involving a special needs child, then That is likely going to be the circumstance that you are most concerned with for the duration of your case. While it goes without saying that parenting a special needs child can be challenging, there are also many rewarding aspects to doing so that are not necessarily available to parents who are not responsible for the care of a special needs’ child. Your unique circumstances as a special needs parent will cause you to look at your case differently than most other parents. 

All children are impacted by the decisions made in connection with the divorce. Keep in mind that as much as you keep your children involved in the case and up to date on what is happening here kids cannot possibly have the same level of understanding about your custody matters as you would as an adult. The same goes twice as much for special needs children. Depending on what impairment or disability your child is suffering with he or she may not be able to emotionally or intellectually grasp the issues of your case on any level whatsoever. 

The first challenge that I would like to bring to your attention in regard to child custody and special needs children is how to plan for meaningful Visitation periods for both parents after a custody case and period it can be challenging enough as it is to transition a family into my living in separate households and sharing custody. However, that transition may be even more difficult for your family given That you have a special needs child. 

The second issue that I would like to discuss in some detail today is How you and your co-parent will divide custody rights in relation to your special needs child. Custody rights are a sometimes-overlooked aspect of a child custody case, believe it or not. The reason why these issues are often overlooked is because many people focus only on the time aspects of a child custody case and spend relatively little time on the conservatorship rights and duties. Being able to make decisions on behalf of your special needs child in regard to medical and educational aspects of their life is incredibly important. 

Transitioning your special needs child into a visitation and possession plan 

Every family that goes through a family law case will need to do their best to help the children adjust to life after the conclusion of their case. This means that living in a household separate from one of your parents is probably the biggest transition child of any age will have to make. No longer is it the case that the child will be able to spend time with both of their parents at the same time or see the parent virtually whenever everyone is at home. This change to the stability and consistency in the family relationship can be quite difficult. 

These consequences are made even more difficult when a special needs child is involved. Being able to process and regulate feelings of negativity and sadness are a part of growing up. We can all think back to times when we either did or did not handle and control these feelings and what consequences our actions had on our lives as a result. Regulating emotion Isn't even more challenging task for parents like yourself who have special needs children. Oftentimes, though not always, special needs children Have an acute difficulty with managing their emotions. There is perhaps no more emotional time in a child's life then in the immediate aftermath of a family law case. 

Hopefully you and your co-parent were able to work together to create a parenting plan that was consistent in terms of how frequently your child could see each parent but was also flexible in terms of allowing for the child to spend more time with one parent during different times throughout the year. For example, if the special needs child we're having a hard time with parting from one parent over a particular weekend you and your co-parent could agree to allow that child an extra night with him or her. This may make all the difference in the world and being able to build trust with your child during this post family law case period. 

By the same token, you do not want a family court order that is so flexible or imprecise that it allows one parent to take advantage of the other. Ultimately what a court order needs to be is flexible enough to allow for parents working together to create circumstances that benefit their children while also being enforceable in the event of a violation by either parent. This is a difficult balancing act to achieve but it can be done with the experienced hand of a family law attorney guiding you. 

For instance, I have seen parents struggle with situations involving a child not wanting to visit the non-primary conservator parent. This is the parent who has every other weekend Visitation And who typically does the picking up and dropping off each weekend. When your special needs child does not want to come out and see you for the weekend visitation are Friday this can create a great deal of heartache for the parent and difficulty when it comes to building a relationship with that child. 

What you want to happen Is to have an order in place that makes it clear when a parent can be held responsible for the failure of the child to come for weekend visitation and when the needs of that special needs child take precedence over a single weekend of visitation. The more specific in order can be as far as when these missed visitation periods can be excused and how make up days of visitation will be determined in the future would go a long way towards determining how successful your court order and post-divorce life will be. 

How will you and your co-parent divide conservatorships rights between the two of you? 

The other important aspect of this discussion is determining how you and your co-parent are going to divide the conservator rights and duties associated with your special needs child. For the purposes of this blog post section, I am going to assume that your child requires greater and more frequent than normal intervention by psychologists, doctors or other professionals. In addition, I will assume that your child has educational needs that most children do not have. As a result, your family court orders need to be very clear about who can make decisions on behalf of your child and in what contexts shared decision-making is necessary. 

When it comes to areas of your child, you and your co-parent may have very different ideas about how to best raise him or her. In fact, these disagreements may have been the key reasons why you and your spouse got divorced in the first place. As such, it should come as no surprise to you that you all may have some problems and disagreements when it comes to dividing up parenting rights and duties and how to work together as a team to raise your child in a divided household. Therefore, you should express your concerns with your attorney and allow him or her to help you in negotiating for orders that take into account your family's shortcomings. 

The bottom line is that you and your co-parent will likely share many rights and duties in relation to your child. While there are some rights and duties that are held independently of the other parent or even exclusively on your own There are still many more that require you and your co-parent to talk about together and reach agreements as a team. The key thing is for you to negotiate strongly with him or her during the case on those issues that you believe are most important for your child. In the event that you end up having to share responsibility in a particular subject you should work to have appointed a third-party decision maker who can play tie breaker if you and your coherent disagree in the future.

What are some other factors which are important in a special needs child custody case?

like any child custody case, the involvement of you and your Co parent will be looked at in a special needs child custody case. If you have always taken a back seat to your spouse in a very rarely and involved in the day-to-day responsibilities associated with raising your special needs child, then that is something that will come up early and often in your case. As such, a judge would be less likely to award you a prominent role in decision-making for your child. 

Rather, some of the decisions regarding best interest for your child in the future will likely become vested in your coparent exclusively while you share rights and duties with him or her in most other regards. Basically, what I'm telling you is the time to become involved in your child's life is not in the week or two prior to your custody or divorce case. You need to be a constant force for stability and consistency in your child's life in the years leading up to your family law case. 

Should your case make it all the way to a judge then I think the judge would also be concerned with viewing both you and your co-parents methods for handling adverse situations and how you worked together as a team, if at all, to resolve those problems. Remember that a family law case involving custody of a special needs child primarily focuses on the proven needs of that child and doing what is in his or her best interests. While at times it may seem like it is a competition between you and your co-parent the reality of the situation is that the needs of your child are the most important factor in the case. 

While you may be a diligent parent who is always been there for your child if it is also shown that you have not worked well with your co-parent in trying to problem solve their difficult subjects and display an unwillingness to change that in the future it is likely that you will be given less say so in the day to take care of your child. On the other hand, if you have always shown a willingness to work with your co-parent no matter what difficulties you are presented with then that is a mark in your favor and can lead to you having more control over the day-to-day decision-making for your child. 

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 presented 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 consultations six days a week here in our office, over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about our law practice and about the services that we offer to our clients. It is an honor to serve our community and to work with families just like you from around Southeast Texas. Thank you for your interest in our law office so we hope you will join us tomorrow here in our blog as we continue to share information regarding Texas family law. 


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