Child Custody & Special Needs

By The Law Offices of Ronald H. Kauffman of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Child Custody on Monday, August 15, 2016.

Children with disabilities have special needs in child custody cases. These needs can include increased expenses and multiple specialists which can dramatically impact timesharing.

Researchers have found that parents of children with disabilities are much likelier to divorce. That is due, in part, to the fact that a child with a disability has multiple needs.

It is not unusual for parents to schedule appointments with multiple schools, specialists, doctors and therapists. This can also mean significant expenses that parents of other children never have to consider.

In Florida, for purposes of establishing a parenting plan, including a time-sharing schedule, the best interest of the child is always the primary consideration.

But determining the best interests of a child with special needs requires courts to evaluate all of the usual factors, and evaluate the factors affecting the welfare and interests of a child with special needs.

For instance, our statute requires the court to consider the developmental stages and needs of the child and the demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to meet the child’s developmental needs.

In relocation cases in particular, the Florida legislature requires courts to consider any special needs of the child in determining if moving away is in the child’s best interest.

I’ve written about custody before. Some things to consider when determining legal custody for a child with special needs, include:

* The frequency in the selection of doctors, specialists or evaluators as well as the frequency of required medical care and expenses – and each parent’s availability to facilitate that.

* Placement of the child into specialized programs or the need for special education services in the child’s school.

* The child’s school district becomes important because school districts have certain responsibilities and obligations to a child with special needs under state and federal law.

* The number of decisions to be made, and the speed necessary for children with disabilities, can make going to court for a resolution very ineffective for meeting the best interest of the child.

* Flexibility, which works well for many parents, may not work well for children with autism, for example, in which rigidity and predictability should be favored over frequent transitions.

Legal and physical custody issues involving special-needs children can best be resolved when the divorcing parties work together.

The ABA article is here.