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Family Law and Special Needs Children

One of the most difficult journeys in Family Law is taken by those parents who have special needs children.  I know, I’ve been there personally.  Our children are amazing AND they have needs that are often not anticipated or well handled by the family law system.  From determining which parent is better situated for primary caretaker to determining the income of the primary care parent for purposes of child support and spousal maintenance to helping the court determine which parent stays in the family home, having counsel that truly understands the needs of the family - the children and the parents - can make an enormous difference in the outcomes for your children, yourselves and your family.

There are four major types of special needs children:

  • Physical – muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, chronic asthma, epilepsy, etc.
  • Developmental – down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, processing disorders.
  • Behavioral/Emotional – ADD, ADHD, bi-polar, oppositional defiance disorder, etc. 
  • Each of these challenges requires different approaches, strategies and plans.

The goal of a healthy adult is founded in the healthy development of the child.  Healthy development in children requires functional, loving attention to their physical, cognitive, emotional and social development.  With high needs kids, early and consistent attention to these needs is imperative.  This is often overwhelming for parents. When we bring in the additional challenges of divorce and child custody, it is not hard to see where these kids can easily get left behind, particularly when you don’t have knowledgeable, compassionate, resourceful counsel.  

The unique care that these children need can make an enormous difference to the court in deciding which parent to award child custody. It is imperative that the court be made aware of the unique care required. If the child has a physical impairment, the court may focus on whether the parents’ homes are easily accessible and safe for the child. If the child has mental or emotional health issues, the court may focus on minimizing the disruption to the child’s life and attempt to keep the child as close as possible to their current schools, medical service providers, friends, etc. The court will look at the individual needs of the child, the history of their care, which parent has the established knowledge, ability and willingness to care for the child, and whether the other parent can obtain these skills. Only a knowledgeable child custody attorney can effectively bring this foundational information to the court’s attention.

Custody evaluators investigate and recommend outcomes in the best interests of the child. The custody evaluator’s report is probably the primary source of information about the children to the court.  These evaluators must be carefully researched and tested for their knowledge about special needs children and the required care that they need.  An experienced family law attorney will have done that work.

Cossitt Family Law has a history of championing the best interests of these children.  We help families to not only develop strategies and structure around the needs of these children, we integrate that into the requirements of the case.  With both personal and professional experience, we bring in the ability to look at the present legal situation as part of the greater challenge of parenting, providing much needed perspective and attention to areas that can make an enormous difference for these children, our clients and the families.  We regularly work with a group of legal and non-legal professionals, making sure that our knowledge is cutting edge so that we can help special needs families’ transition through these legal challenges and get on with their lives in a positive and healthy way.

For more resources see:

Top Child Custody Related Pages at Cossitt Law Firm

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