Going through a divorce while raising a special needs child in Union County NJ
When a child is special needs, the potential for complications in a divorce proceeding is amplified.
Going through a divorce is a difficult process for all involved, especially when children are involved. When a child is special needs, the potential for complications in a divorce proceeding is amplified. Regardless of the nature of their relationships and any conflicts that are playing out in the divorce, parents must come together to ensure the wellbeing of the child, which includes complex considerations for special needs children. Read on to learn more about what to keep in mind when navigating a divorce and custody proceeding involving a special needs child.
Routines are key
Divorce is a time of radical transition, on physical, emotional, mental, and financial levels. If you are involved in a divorce and have a child with special needs, the associated transitions may be all the more drastic, as the potential for adverse emotional and educational setbacks due to the divorce is higher for sensitive children. When you are undergoing a divorce, it is essential that you do your best to maintain as many routines as possible, so the child feels that there are stability and security on which they can depend. This may mean taking extra care to have both parents present in their daily or weekly life if this is what they are used to — even if you two have high conflict.
“Trial Run” of a Parenting Time Agreement
Another way to maintain routines is to do a ‘trial run’ of the parenting time agreement you will come to as part of your custodial settlement. This could include scheduling each parent for regular drop-offs and pick-ups, extracurricular activities, and video calls. When it becomes impossible to maintain the pre-divorce routine for your child, set up a new structure as soon as possible, so they feel grounded and safe.
Particularly with a special needs child, having positive and non-violent communication with your spouse is essential. Be honest and open (to an appropriate extent) with your child about what is happening, focusing on the fact that nothing has changed in your shared love of the child, and do your best to appear – and actually be – collaborative when it comes to time shared with them.
The child’s school district is generally the body that determines whether a child is special needs. When a child has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as determined by district evaluation, they receive special supports during the school day. Depending on the extensivity of the plan, this could include an array of supports, including individualized learning methods in the classroom, time with a reading specialist or school psychologist, or even a full-time support specialist.
While it is not legally required that both parents sign an IEP, having the dual support and participation of parents regardless of their relationship status is essential for the educational and socioemotional success of a child. Especially in the case of a child with special needs, forming a united front to create routines providing consistency for the child’s school experience and at-home practices. During the divorce and custody arrangement negotiations, be sure to let your attorney know if your child has an IEP. This may affect the parenting time agreement, child support payments, or alimony.
Impact on Division of Marital Assets
Having a special needs child also may impact how the couple’s marital assets are divided in a divorce. In order to ensure that the custodial parent is able to cover expenses associated with the child’s needs, such as medical treatments and equipment or support specialists, the parents will need to document all of those needs for the court. The fair separation of assets will take into account that the custodial parent is responsible for the majority of medical, education, and psychological care of the child; as such, spousal support payments will reflect this.
Ensuring Health Care and Insurance is not Effected or Interupted
Perhaps most importantly, ensuring that your child’s health care and insurance needs are not interrupted or disrupted during the divorce will create steadiness in the wellbeing of the child, regardless of how rocky the other elements of the divorce are. The divorcing couple and their attorneys need to decide how health care and insurance payments will be covered both before the child reaches 18 years old, as well as after. For many special needs children, their expanded health coverage continues for life, so the couple needs to plan for that and have a system set up for collaborative financial support of that plan.
Consult an Experienced Cranford Divorce and Cusotdy Attorney Today
At Attorney Edward S. Cooper, our New Jersey divorce attorneys support families across Summit, Elizabeth, Scotch Plains, Linden, and Union County.
To schedule a consultation with our firm today regarding your divorce and custodial agreement, please contact us online or throughout the NJ office by calling (908) 481-4625 today for a confidential consultation today.