Children with special needs require more planning and consideration than their neurotypical peers. Many families in Texas have children with medical conditions ranging from Down syndrome to autism. These children often require more caregiver support and more financial resources than other children of the same age.
Special needs children in your family can also complicate your upcoming divorce proceedings. You need to include special considerations for these children in your parenting plan. How do you support special needs children while dividing parenting time and other responsibilities with your ex?
Be realistic about transitions
It is common for all children to struggle with changes, but transitions are particularly difficult for children with special needs. Autistic children, for example, may experience intense emotional distress when they need to cease a preferred activity to travel to a different location.
Instead of arranging for frequent custody exchanges and shorter stays with each parent, your family may need to embrace a longer rotation to minimize transition stress.
All children require routines and clear expectations to thrive. Special needs children, in particular, need to understand the rules to manage complex situations. Keeping your daily life as similar as possible to your life prior to the divorce, such as keeping your child in the same school or on the same schedule, can go a long way toward helping them understand what they need to do.
Some families may even find that birdnesting, which keeps the child in the family home with the parents staying elsewhere when they don’t have custody, to be a useful solution for children with special needs.
Recognize their lasting support needs
Most children will move out shortly after they reach adulthood or finish high school. They will become financially independent as they establish their careers or after finishing their education.
Children with special needs may require ongoing parental support for the rest of their lives. They may never be able to establish an independent household or have their own families. They may also require ongoing child support even into adulthood. You and your ex may need to have some very difficult conversations about what your child’s support needs will mean for each of your careers and your financial plans.
Integrating the right provisions into your parenting plan will make sharing custody of a child with special needs less challenging for your family.