Dec 11, 2023

Navigating Co-Parenting Challenges With Special Needs: Protecting Your Child's Best Interests

Co-parenting through divorce presents a multitude of challenges. When your child has special needs, those issues are only amplified. As a family law attorney and mother of a child with Type 1 Diabetes, I see the intersection of these two worlds firsthand.The two major components of any parenting agreement are (i) parenting time and (ii) decision making. If you are a parent to a child with special medical needs, it is crucial to include terms in your parenting agreement following the guidelines below to protect and promote your child’s best interests.If your spouse has not managed your child’s care, and your child is not capable of taking on that responsibility, it may not be appropriate for your spouse to have overnight parenting time until they can demonstrate that they are up to the task. Some potential protections and obstacles to consider:If you have a child with special medical needs, you should have an entire section of your parenting plan which addresses this specifically. Whatever the specific diagnosis, it is appropriate to call out any chronic illness as it likely should be treated differently than other medical decisions.Parents can include language about their respective goals and expectations related to their child’s care. You may want to consider the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator to act as an intermediary in disputes relative to your child’s care to avoid returning to Court.If your co-parent is not taking your child’s health seriously, it is both infuriating and heartbreaking. Try to keep your emotions in check and address the issue factually. When you are involved in an acrimonious divorce, tensions are high and both parents are on edge when communicating with the other. If you are able to, keep your tone balanced and remove accusations in favor of facts, it will help you communicate more effectively to achieve better results for your child.If your child’s parent is not taking their condition seriously, this may provide the Court with a basis to modify the parenting schedule. Documenting issues in writing is crucial. Educating the Court is also essential. Most Judges will not understand the complexities of your child’s illness. Your lawyer should be prepared to cite medical journals about long terms impacts of your child’s diagnosis and bring in medical experts if necessary to testify.

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