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Special needs kids need consideration for child custody

New York families who are going through a divorce with a special needs child have special needs themselves. All children suffer from vulnerability when their parents split, no matter what child custody arrangements have been worked out. However, kids with special needs may require even more attention in the wake of a family split.

First, it is important to prioritize stability in your home after and during your divorce. Even though parents and caregivers may want some "me" time after the split, they have to remember that their special needs child requires ongoing care. Parents do have needs, but they should structure their use of resources to ensure that the special needs child continues to receive the necessary attention and care.

Kids with special needs are not as flexible as other children, and they may have difficulty with major change. This issue obviously includes divorce. Try to keep your child's routines as stable as possible, with gradual modifications instead of shocking changes. Routines and caregiver responsibilities should be prioritized. Special needs kids are also very sensitive to their caregivers' emotional state. During your divorce, try to minimize the nonverbal messages you send that could indicate anger or anxiety.

Further, although conventional wisdom states that parents with special needs kids are more likely to divorce, refrain from blaming your split on your child. Your relationship problems may be related to caring for the child, but it is not necessarily the direct cause. You simply may not have had the relationship resources to deal with such a lifestyle.

Parents who are looking to divorce in New York should include child custody negotiations in their divorce process. A qualified attorney may be able to help families learn more about their legal rights and options during their breakup. Attorneys may also be able to link special needs families with the resources they need to negotiate and maintain visitation rights.

Source: Huffington Post, "Divorce and the Child With Special Needs" Marie Hartwell-Walker, Feb. 03, 2014

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