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Custody and Special Needs Children-What to Make Sure Your Attorney Knows

Have a child with special needs? Getting divorced or going through a custody case? Statistically, if you have a special needs child you are more likely to get divorced. Don't be hard on yourself but do remember that you have the extra hurdle of educating others about your child. Here are some tips:

Write down all of the needs that your child has. You want your attorney to educate the court and/or to negotiate a settlement that meets your child's special needs. These needs include but are not limited to:

  • Individual counseling-sign a release so your child's counselor can speak with your attorney. If your child isn't in counseling then get your child in counseling. Transitions are tough on all children but particularly special needs children.
  • Medical appointments—make a list of all medical providers, what you see each one for, and any diagnosis given to your child. Gather the medical records.
  • Medication management-make a list of what medications your child takes, who prescribed them, when they are taken and what they are taken for. Consider counting pills for documentation purposes if you believe the other parent isn't giving the medication the way it has been prescribed.
  • Education-provide your attorney with a copy of any IEPs and 504 plans as well as any other educational evaluation. If your child has behavior problems at school summarize that information and provide any progress notes from the school as well as from any tutors and/or school counselors your child may see.
  • Therapy-If your child sees a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist summarize that information including when they see this person, what it costs, and what the goals of therapy are. If there are records that show you take your child to these appointments and the other parent doesn't then those are records that are particularly important to obtain.
  • Lifestyle adjustments—If your child has issues with textures, food, noise, people, etc. make note of these adjustments for your attorney. Maybe your child only wears a certain type of pants made of a certain material, has to have his lunch packed with gluten free foods, goes to school early to avoid big crowds of kids because of his anxiety, only participates in individual sporting activities, etc. These adjustments are special to your child but important in terms of planning a custody schedule.
  • Make a Day in the Life journal—Give your attorney an idea of what a "day in the life" of your child looks like. Make note of areas where your child has trouble. It's very important for all children, but especially special needs children to have routine and structure. What custody schedule could be implemented to give your child the most predictability?
  • Make note of disagreements-It's important to figure out what areas you disagree on with the parent of your child in a custody case. It's always the areas of disagreement that will need the most work.

In conclusion, provide as much information to your attorney as possible so that you can help your attorney obtain the best possible outcome for you.