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Burns & Hansen, PA

Special needs situations demand attention in child custody cases

One of the most difficult aspects of going through a divorce is having to handle child custody issues. Deciding when parents will spend time with the child and who is going to make decisions about the child's upbringing must occur.

When the child has special needs, there are extra concerns that have to be addressed in a child custody order. Understanding these ahead of time might help you to plan for what will need to happen.

Comfort during visitation

The comfort and well being of the child is a primary concern in child custody cases. A special needs child might not be able to feel comfortable in new places. This can make custody issues even more complicated because the child can't just go anywhere and feel safe. The parents might have to come up with alternate arrangements to help the child feel secure.

Alternative arrangements

In typical child custody cases, the child moves between the parents' homes. If there are a lot of medical considerations and equipment necessary, especially at night, the parents might fare better if they switch homes so that the child can remain in one single home. This is an unconventional plan, however, it is one that means they don't have to buy two sets of equipment or figure out a way to move it from one location to another.

Unique medical care agreements

Special needs children have unique medical care needs, which means that the parents must have specific agreements. Not only do the parents need to agree about how regular decisions about health care will be made, they also need to decide what is going to happen in an emergency. Will the parent who has the child be able to act alone or will the parent have to allow only lifesaving treatments until the other parent is contacted? Deciding these points now can help to avoid confusion and undue stress when a situation like this occurs.

Transportation considerations

A child who has a wheelchair, a home ventilator or other equipment might not be able to ride in a regular vehicle. With this in mind, the transportation needs might all fall on one parent who has an adapted vehicle. The parents could handle this by allowing the parent who has the child to have the vehicle or both parents might need to get a suitable vehicle.

Schooling decisions

The decisions about the child's education are important. Individualized education plans and other factors might be handled by one or both parents. Clear expectations about this should be covered in the child custody agreement.

Source: Nov. 30, -0001

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