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Terms of child custody with a special needs child

Some New York spouses are unhappy in marriage but remain together for reasons other than the way they feel. You've probably known or heard about couples who stay married for religious purposes, financial reasons or to tough it out "for the kids," particularly when a child has a physical, emotional or mental disability.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder may have great difficulty communicating and adapting to change. Parents of autistic children may feel divorce would be too much for a child to bear. On the other hand, constant tension between parents in the same household also may be detrimental to a child's well-being.

Child custody issues must be considered carefully any time a marriage ends and more so for parents of children with special needs. Parents can work out the terms of these legal matters without the intervention of a family court, but a highly-emotional divorce sometimes can make coming to an agreement extremely hard.

A personally-designed custody arrangement saves spouses time and money, which is often a significant factor for parents who would rather concentrate on their child's health. Parents are encouraged to put aside hard feelings about the adult relationship and prioritize the best interests of the child -- this is what a judge would do.

Custody considerations should include a reasonable assessment of the time parents have to devote to the child. Parents also must weigh how a child might respond to a custody arrangement. Autistic children may not handle complicated transitions as well as children who do not suffer from the disorder.

Divorce can be a stressful process for any parent. The decisions you make can have long-term repercussions. It can be valuable for parents with autistic children to seek guidance from several sources during divorce including mental health counselors, attorneys and, when necessary, a family court judge.

Source: Center for Autism Research, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, "Child Custody Law," accessed April. 24, 2015

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