Preparing for Divorce If You Have a Child With a Disability

Posted On September 20, 2023 Children

When there is a child with a disability involved in a divorce, issues such as child custody, visitation, support, and property division are significantly more complex. The key is to prioritize the child’s best interests, taking into account their unique needs and the ability of each parent to meet them.

How Divorce Can Impact Special Education Services

Divorce may lead to changes in living arrangements, potentially affecting the child’s school district and the availability of specialized services. Effective communication between parents becomes crucial in ensuring the continuity of special education services.

Both parents should stay informed about the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and work together to implement it. Maintaining consistent support and routines for the child is vital. Parents should collaborate to ensure that therapies, interventions, and accommodations continue as planned.

Joint Managing Conservator vs. Sole Managing Conservator

The choice between Joint Managing Conservatorship and Sole Managing Conservatorship is especially significant when a divorce involves a child with a disability. Here’s how each option can impact your child:

Joint Managing Conservatorship (JMC)

  • Shared Decision-Making: Both parents are responsible for making major decisions regarding the child, including those related to medical treatment, education, and therapy.
  • Cooperation is Key: For JMC to be successful, parents must be able to work together effectively. This requires open communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to prioritizing the best interests of the child.
  • Continuity of Care: With both parents actively involved, it’s more likely that the child’s routine, therapies, and support systems will be consistent across households if there is shared custody.
  • Legal Rights: Both parents have equal legal rights and responsibilities regarding the child. This means that major decisions must be made jointly, and neither parent can make unilateral choices without consulting the other.

Sole Managing Conservatorship

  • Clear Decision-Making Authority: One parent has the authority to make major decisions for the child. In situations where there may be disagreement between parents about what is best for the child, having a sole managing conservator can simplify the decision-making process.
  • Potential for Consistency: The child’s routine and care plan may be more consistent if one parent is primarily responsible for making decisions.
  • Potential for Conflict Reduction: In high-conflict situations, having one parent with decision-making authority can help reduce disputes.
  • Accountability: The sole managing conservator bears the responsibility for ensuring that the child’s needs are met, including medical, educational, and therapeutic needs.

Factors to Consider

Ultimately, the best approach depends on the specific circumstances of the child and the parents. In some cases, joint managing conservatorship may be the most beneficial, as it allows both parents to be actively involved in the child’s life. In others, sole managing conservatorship may be necessary if one parent is better equipped to meet the unique needs of the child with a disability.

It is crucial to consider what arrangement will provide the child with the most stable, supportive, and nurturing environment while also taking into account the abilities and willingness of each parent to meet those needs. Consulting with a trusted Spokane family lawyer and special education professionals can provide valuable guidance in making this critical decision. Contact us for a free legal consultation today.

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