Co-parenting can be difficult for any former couple. However, for those with a special needs child, there can be some particularly unique challenges. A special needs child is going to need more structure and routine than a typical child would. You, as parents, have more than visitation times, vacation schedules and financial responsibilities to consider.
A special needs child requires a heightened level of care and attention than the average child. Your son or daughter may need around-the-clock supervision, no matter how old they are. You’ll need to consider what resources you have, as well as any special scheduling needs that your child regularly has before crafting a custody schedule for them. It’s not uncommon for one parent of a special needs child to retain sole physical custody of their son or daughter.
Special needs children may require specialized medical equipment, prescription medications and supplemental nutrition. They have to go to the doctor more often than other children. Special needs children may also require specialized transportation to get to the hospital and school. It’s crucial that a special needs child’s primary custodian lives near their son or daughter’s school and health care providers and that they have the required medical equipment to keep them safe.
Shared custody is an option with special needs children, but it might not function the same way it does for other kids. Special needs children function better with set routines. They may benefit from spending extended periods at each parent’s home rather than more fragmented ones.
If the child does need specialized equipment, then it may be cost-prohibitive to have two sets of it. Parents may have to arrange to transport it back and forth to each other’s homes. A special needs child may have such significant needs that a parent can’t work. Special needs parents may require spousal support to bridge the gap.
Child support generally only lasts until a child is 18 or 21. Special needs children may require financial support for a lifetime, though. They may also eventually need to apply for Social Security Disability or Medicaid.
There are unique factors associated with having a special needs child that many standard parenting plans or divorce decrees don’t cover. A divorce attorney here in Manhattan can call your attention to the many different decisions that you’ll need to make before closing the chapter on your New York marriage.