Developing Parenting Plans for Children with Special Needs

Adapting to Your New Family Dynamics

After you separate from or divorce your spouse, your family dynamic naturally changes. This is often hard for children but can be especially difficult for children with special needs. It is not uncommon for parents to have extra anxiety over how their child with special needs will adjust to the change. However, you are not powerless. Your parenting plan offers you an opportunity to plan to help them through the process proactively.

Most people develop their parenting plan as part of their custody agreement. During this process, it is important to create a comprehensive parenting plan. The more detailed you are, the better prepared you will be for the future. Additionally, having an established, thorough parenting plan on file can provide you with peace of mind and a sense of support. If something unexpected happens, your parenting plan is there to guide you.

Commonly included in a parenting plan for children with special needs are:

  • Custody and visitation schedules, including holidays
  • Provisions for travel, both vacations and travel to receive medical treatment if necessary
  • Provisions for general medical and health care needs, including medication plans and health insurance
  • Plans for ongoing speech, physical, and behavioral therapies if applicable
  • Plans for current and future educational needs, including college if applicable
  • Procedures for ensuring that your child has the equipment they need, such as wheelchairs and other assistive devices

Often children with special needs require financial support and care as adults. This is something that should also be addressed when developing a parenting plan and child support agreement. For more information on child support for children with special needs, click here.

Keep reading for tips on developing a parenting plan for children with special needs.

Be Flexible & Willing to Compromise When Necessary

There is no easy answer when it comes to developing a parenting plan for children with special needs. Every family and every child is different. When working with your ex to develop a parenting plan, it is helpful to approach the process with a willingness to be flexible and cooperative. The parenting plan's goal is to ensure that your child is being supported and receives the care they need. It is not uncommon for this to require compromise on the part of both parents.

Plan for Visitation & Custody Challenges

Shared custody can be difficult for children with special needs. If your child requires a lot of assistive equipment, moving between homes may be unrealistic. Additionally, some children with special needs do better with a very consistent routine. Going back and forth between two houses may be detrimental to them or their needs. While both parents may wish to have 50/50 custody, it may be necessary for one parent to have primary physical custody and arrange for the other parent to have visitation and parenting time so the child doesn’t have to move around unnecessarily.

Turn to Care Professionals for Guidance

Often, children with special needs receive support from caregivers outside of the family. These professionals are an invaluable resource when considering your parenting plan. Just like you, they have your child's best interests at heart. With their professional background and experience, they may have valuable insights. Do not be afraid to reach out to them when appropriate.

When developing a parenting plan, consider speaking with your child's:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Therapists

Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself

Your number one concern is for your children, but you should also be sure to take care of yourself during this process. Separating from an ex and working to develop a healthy co-parenting relationship for your children is an incredibly stressful and emotional process. Many people have found working with a qualified therapist to be beneficial. You may also wish to seek family counseling or therapy for your children.

Work with an Experienced Attorney

Parenting plans and custody agreements are legally binding. Before making changes or submitting a custody agreement to the courts, you should seek counsel from a skilled lawyer. At DeTommaso Law Group, our attorneys are conversant in all aspects of divorce and custody laws in New Jersey. We take a compassionate and collaborative approach to legal representation and always put our clients and their families' needs first. When you need help developing an effective parenting plan for your child with special needs, contact us.

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