Today family courts handle an increasing number child custody cases involving children with special needs, some of whom suffer from common neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit disorders, depressive disorders, and autistic spectrum disorders which present complex challenges to families and family law professionals trying to craft parenting plans and child support provisions that serve the child’s best interests.
In divorce cases involving a child with these particular disorders, it is important to find the right resources which often starts by securing a legal team that has a fundamental knowledge base regarding the challenges families face when their child is suffering from neurological conditions like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and severe depressive disorders so often seen in teenagers.
This varied population of children require a systematic analysis of risks and protective factors to inform parenting time and parental responsibility arrangements taking into account issues such as the safety of the child and the severity of their disorder, the parental attunement and insight into the issue and their skills in helping the child, and, the parental commitment and availability (and resources) to pursue medical, education and therapeutic services. Simply put, many children who suffer from neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders require extraordinary support so it is important to get the child custody and child support provisions right.
The term special needs encompasses an array of learning disorders and cognitive impairment, chronic developmental disorders, physical disabilities, serious medical conditions, and severe psychiatric and behavioral disorders – all of which present unique challenges when parents divorce. In the last two decades, there has been a dramatic rise in children suffering from neurodevelopmental and psychiatric syndromes with significantly higher divorce rates among parents raising special needs kids with syndromes such as autistic spectrum disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when compared to the general population.
Divorce and separation can complicate and exacerbate symptoms in a child with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, potentially putting these children at risk for very poor outcomes under circumstances that might be adequate for higher functioning kids. Because the needs of a child suffering from a neurodevelopmental or psychiatric disorder often do not fall into the commonly recommended developmentally based parenting plans, a plan that recognizes the need for consistent stability, that supports the child’s cognitive, social and emotional development is often in the child’s best interest, even if it does not mean equal parenting time. When considering financial support, it is important to look beyond straight formulas to include expenses for the therapeutic or other care that may benefit the child. Working with family law professionals that have familiarity with the challenges families face when they are raising a child with special needs, who recognize the parenting skills and resources needed to serve the specific needs of a child, is key.
Divorcing parents of a child with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders such as attention deficit disorders, depressive disorders, or autistic spectrum disorders often worry about the effects that a divorce or separation will have on a vulnerable child, one who is already at higher risk for self-harming behaviors. One or both parents may worry that a parenting plan with disproportionate or equal parenting time and responsibilities will not serve the special needs of the child. Families also have concerns about expenses related to caring for a child with special needs that must be represented when determining child support.
If you are considering divorce and have a special needs child, it is important to work with a highly experienced Illinois family law attorney who will take time to discuss your unique circumstances and be a staunch advocate for you and your family so that your child gets the support they need. Contact the Libertyville family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for immediate assistance at 847-680-4970.