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Divorce considerations for parents whose child has special needs

Getting divorced when you have children is never easy, but the experience can be increasingly difficult when your son or daughter has special needs. A child with special needs may have higher care requirements than other children in the same age group. He or she may also struggle more with your divorce.

Paying attention to your child’s needs and processing capabilities as you begin your divorce can guide the way you handle ending your marriage. In the end, these considerations may smoothen the process for your entire family.

Stability is critical during the transition

Most children thrive with routine, but it is a common necessity for children with special needs. Since divorce can be highly disruptive, you and your spouse may want to minimize scheduling changes as much as possible.

One potential way to maintain routine is by allowing your child to stay in their familiar, family home. Though you and your spouse may choose to designate separate living arrangements for yourselves, keeping a stable home environment for your child can minimize their anxiety and related behaviors.

Address unique support considerations from the start

A child who has special needs may require costly medical and child care if both parents go to work. Therefore, you or your soon-to-be ex may have stayed home to provide appropriate care for your child.

Finances are nearly always a consideration for divorcing couples. However, the financial implications related to a child’s disability could significantly affect a court’s determinations on child support and spousal maintenance.

Be honest but try to shield your child

You may feel like you are walking a fine line between sheltering your child from the truth and being transparent about divorcing their other parent. It is essential to communicate the changes taking place within your family. Yet, it may be wise to broach the subject carefully.

If your child is vulnerable to depression, try not to involve them in the negativity surrounding your divorce. As you move forward with establishing the terms of your settlement, you can preserve your child’s innocence by sheltering them from the specific details.

Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup

Providing constant care for someone can be difficult. The pressures of divorce and your new single life can drain you of your energy when you must also meet the needs of a child with special needs. You may find this especially true once you lack the support of a partner.

Counterintuitive though it may seem, caring for yourself is vital in giving your child the best life possible. Find ways to take a break, see a therapist or participate in a support group of people who can identify with your situation.

You will inevitably experience a unique set of challenges and emotions related to your parental duties while navigating a major life change like divorce. However, remembering the needs of your child could help you and your spouse pave the way for a better future for your entire family, regardless of your marital status.