Child Custody & Visitation Blog

Divorce and Special Needs Children

Divorce can be a complicated process, particularly when there are children involved. Things can become even more difficult when the involved children have special needs often requiring special care. Common types of special needs include:

  • Visual impairments
  • Speech problems
  • Physical problems
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Learning disabilities

Below is an overview of the ways in which children with special needs can impact the issues of support, custody, and visitation.

Special needs children and child support

New York law outlines by statute the presumptively-correct amount of child support that a custodial parent receives to cover support for minor children. If the Court finds the presumptively-correct amount to be â’unjust or inappropriate’ the Court may disregard it and calculate support based on certain factors, including â’the physical and emotional health of the child and his/her special needs and aptitudes.”

Special needs children and child custody

Child custody laws in New York are designed to protect the best interests of children following divorce or separation. New York defines four different types of custody:

1) Joint physical custody – Joint physical custody grants both parents custody of their child based on a schedule.
2) Sole physical custody – Sole physical custody grants one parent primary physical custody of his or her child, and usually grants visitation to the other parent.
3) Joint legal custody – Joint legal custody grants both parents the right to make joint decisions involving their child.
4) Sole legal custody – Sole legal custody grants one parent the right to make decisions on behalf of his or her child.

In addition, when a special needs child is involved in a divorce, the child’s condition is considered in determining custody. Areas of inquiry are:

  • The ability of each parent to provide the required care for the child;
  • The ability of each parent to provide medical care for the child; and
  • Whether the homes of the parents are appropriately structured to accommodate the child’s needs.

Special needs children and visitation

Special needs children sometimes struggle with traditional visitation schedules, as such arrangements typically involve movement between both parents’ homes on a rotating schedule. For example, it’s not uncommon for children of divorce to stay at the home of a noncustodial parent on weekends and holidays. Some unique conditions, such as autism, can cause children to react adversely to changes in their normal routines. In these types of situations, courts may require expert input to create visitation schedules that are beneficial to the children.

New York Legal Representation

In New York, divorce and legal separation are complicated processes. If you are considering pursuing either of these options, please contact an experienced New York family law attorney to discuss your options. At O’Connell and Aronowitz, our matrimonial and family law practice offers experienced counsel to individuals and families. Our experienced New York family law attorneys have handled hundreds of cases involving complex custody, visitation and support issues in many counties throughout the state of New York. Please contact us for a free initial consultation.

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