Your Englewood Cliffs, NJ Special Needs Custody Attorneys
We’re not going to sugar coat it: divorce is incredibly difficult, even in the simplest of circumstances (and nothing’s simple with kiddos). Breaking up the marriage, separating, telling the kids… a parent moving out, the children potentially spending every other weekend with a co-parent, in their new space (depending upon the custody arrangement)— divorce is difficult. And we haven’t even gotten into the monetary aspects.
And divorce with a child with special needs is one of the most difficult aspects of divorce you can think of.
And yet, unhappily married couples staying together for the sake of the kids— no matter who the kids are— is never the answer.
We know that parenting children with special needs comes with its own set of extra challenges (compounded by exhaustion), but also, its own set of rewards that other parents won’t really understand. The smile that lights up the face of a child with special needs may beam a little brighter.
The number one question any parent of a child with special needs may very well have is, Who’s going to have custody of my child with special needs? Who is going to be the primary caregiver? If you’re in this position— and reside in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, or the Bergen County area— you may want a Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Let’s look at what that lawyer may be able to help you with, and how can you move forward. (Please visit our webpage for a more general overview of divorce with children with special needs considerations, as well as our webpage on child custody.)
- After you retain counsel: After you meet with, and hire, the lawyer you feel best suited to your circumstances, there are a couple questions you’ll want to ask yourself, a couple of actionable items you can do to prepare and assist yourself. Be honest with yourself about which custody arrangement would be best for you, and for your child with special needs. Oftentimes, with children with special needs, the primary goal is for the divorce process to be as smooth and non-disruptive as possible. (All children crave stability and routine, but children with special needs often more so.) Discuss your desired custody arrangements honestly with Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey; their task is to help you get the best outcome for you and your family. Additionally, do anything you can with regards to getting your financial papers in order and all documentation that deals with your child’s special needs (medical bills, caregiver bills, invoices from therapists or mental health professionals, perhaps an individualized education program (IEP), etc.).
- Your co-parent: If you are aiming to be the primary custodial parent of your child with special needs, what parental visitation are you comfortable with your co-parent having? Discuss this with your lawyer so your desires are realistic, and in the best interest of your family: will the child with special needs spend overnights at your co-parent’s house, and if so, is that space equipped for them? Is the ‘nesting set-up’ (in which the children occupy the home, and the co-parent rotate out according to a set schedule) an option in your case? Discuss custodial arrangements, holiday preferences, school breaks now, so you can agree to a schedule during the divorce process— as, with a child with special needs, flexibility and changes to arrangements may not be as easy as you would wish them to be. Additionally, what do you need from your co-parent, with regards to child support— and how much is realistic to expect? A child with special needs will have more cost considerations than kids without them, and your lawyer will advise you and work with you to make sure you get what you need, financially, to do best by your child with special needs— and your whole family.
- Day-to-day realities of education: So much of a child’s life revolves around school: getting there on time, their teachers and friends, homework, vacations… school days are a major part of growing up. This may hold true for a child with special needs, or it may not— of course it all depends upon the child. (And in the process of divorce, in the best interest of the child should top the list of what’s important.) Are you driving the kids to school, or do they take the bus? (Or perhaps the kids don’t go to the same school at all, which complicates matters.) Does your job mean you need after-care, and if so, what does that look like— does the school provide any options, or do you need to figure out a private, affordable option? Would your child with special needs benefit from a homework tutor? Do you need coverage to be able to make it to that crucial parent-teacher conference? All the questions of kids and school are exacerbated by a child with special needs, and the day-to-day realities of school days need to be addressed.
- Getting your child with special needs the help they need: Whether, ultimately, there’s going to be a custodial parent who has primary custody or a joint custody agreement, a large part of being the parent of a child with special needs is making sure the kid receives the assistance they need, be it specialized classes, physical therapy, therapy for mental health, medical assistance, hired help to assist with the tasks of day-to-day life or any other potential assistance this child may need. There’s meeting with doctors, nurses, specialists, therapists, counselors, etc.— and that can take toll on any parent. Work with your lawyer and your team so you understand what help your kid needs, and how you can best deliver it to them.
- Other children: Of course, your child with special needs may not be the only child you’re caring for— or taking primary custody of— during the divorce process. Obviously growing up as a sibling to a child with special needs poses its own set of challenges (often associated with bullying, an understandable attention-gap and/or mental health issues) and these, coupled with a divorce, can prove very challenging to your other child(ren). You may want to seek family counseling or enlist the assistance of a specialized therapist with your other child(ren). Your Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey may be able to point you in the direction of unique resources for this extra-challenging time.
- And please don’t forget about you: divorce is hard enough on any parent, but as the parent of a child with special needs it may feel crushing. You’re not alone— reach out to your family, your friends, your support group at this difficult time. You may even have friends who have the unique experience of parenting a child with special needs, and some of them may even be divorced. Reach out to them, take them for coffee, pick their brains— how did they move to the next chapter? Of course, parents know it’s almost impossible to get a moment to oneself, but in the event that you can (maybe a grandparent or an aunt or uncle can watch the kiddos for an hour or two?), treat yourself: a massage or a manicure, a cup of tea with a good book. Above all, be kind to yourself and forgive yourself: divorce is a journey that affects everyone differently, and the road on your journey is extra fraught with perils. You may not make the right choice every time, in hindsight; you may lose your temper and wish you hadn’t. That’s okay. Forgive yourself and move forward.
- What’s next? Divorce often brings up the scariest question: What will the future look like? When children with special needs are involved that question becomes even more challenging. Who will have custody of the child with special needs after you and/or your co-parent pass away? Will a guardianship (a sibling, a godparent, etc.) need to be put in place? What about a trust? Can an estate be secured to provide for such? And what if a trust or estate is out of the question— can state or government help be secured for the future? What will a post-divorce future look like for your child with special needs? Your Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey can help you plan the future that’s best for you and your children.
If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, chances are you know what an enriching experience that can be: they can teach you about a little extra patience, a little more listening. They can enrich your life with love in ways you may not have thought possible before, when you see them complete a task for themselves, or discover something new. Divorce may feel like an insurmountable obstacle in the road here, but really, it’s a speed-bump— together, you and your family can move forward.
Are you the parent of a special needs child who needs a Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey? We can help. Call our offices, fill out the intake
form, or email a dedicated Family Law paralegal to speak with a Special Needs Custody Lawyer in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey at O’Cathain Law Group.