Children with special needs are children first. However, they do need extra care and attention to reach their full potential. This might have been a little easier when you were together or married in Washington, but now that you are divorced or separated, co-parenting a child with special needs may present unique challenges.
Challenges to expect
The first is child custody. Children with special needs benefit greatly from having a consistent schedule and routine and having both parents involved in their care. If possible, it’s much easier for parents with a comprehensive understanding of their unique circumstances to reach custody decisions that best serve everyone involved. However, if this is not possible, a third party, a judge, will have to use their best judgment to make a custody decision, which may not take into account all the nuances of your child’s special needs and your situation.
Secondly, there may be financial considerations. Not only will you have to coordinate your incomes, medical expenses and educational costs for your child’s special needs, but one or both of you may qualify for government assistance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability Insurance.
Finally, there may be difficulty with communication between the two of you. Your child’s special needs require a great deal of compassion and understanding from both parents, which can be difficult when emotions are running high after a divorce or separation.
Tips for co-parenting a child with special needs
The most important thing you can do is maintain a unified front when deciding about your child’s care. If possible, set up a plan that involves both parents and lay out guidelines on how to approach problems or disagreements. Also, consider taking the time to understand each other’s feelings and perspectives on your child’s situation and how to best provide for them.
Co-parenting a child with special needs is undeniably complex, requiring exceptional patience, consistency and empathy from both parents. Navigating post-divorce or separation dynamics while caring for a child’s unique requirements might be challenging but manageable. The simplest way to handle this situation is to ensure that your child’s best interest guides every decision you make.