When parents split, issues like child support, child custody and co-parenting are often at the center of the divorce. Having a high-needs child, such as one with autism spectrum disorder, can make these discussions all the more challenging. However, it is critical that parents come up with a plan that works for the child’s unique needs. Here are a few tips for navigating divorce as the parent of a high-needs child:
- Shift perspective: Prior to a divorce, the relationship between the parents of a high-needs child is a marital one, as they are looking at one another primarily as husband and wife rather than as co-parents. Shifting this perspective and seeing the other party primarily as the child’s parent (rather than a spouse or ex-spouse) is critical to starting off on the right foot. Approaching communication from this perspective, with the child at the center, can sometimes facilitate more peaceful discussions as well.
- Create predictability: Children, especially high-needs children, function best in a predictable environment. When determining child custody arrangements, working together can help to ensure that expectations are clear. Shared rules, color-coded calendars and co-parenting agreements can all come into play here.
- Schedule calls or video chats: Knowing that they will see or speak to the other parent at a certain time can provide great comfort to children as they adjust to the new normal. Not only does this create a consistent schedule, but it reassures them that both parents are in their lives and that they are loved no matter what.
Whether or not a child is neurodiverse, divorce can be difficult. Creating a predictable and peaceful co-parenting environment can make a huge difference, especially for high-needs children. Many parents could benefit by discussing their unique child custody and child support concerns with a trusted Maryland family lawyer.