Divorce can be an emotionally complicated time for all children, and even more so for children who fall on the autism spectrum. For autistic children, who may struggle to understand where their parents’ negative emotions came from and why divorce is necessary, it can be a particularly tough time. They may wish to live with one parent, but the courts may believe the other parent is better able to meet their needs. If you have an autistic child and believe you are going to divorce in the near future, you need to seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney. As a parent of an autistic child, here are some other issues you need to be prepared for.
Autistic children will need reinforcement that this is not their fault
If children believe they are responsible for a divorce, that belief could compound the emotional damage caused by parents splitting up. Don’t wait for your child to broach the topic. You need to speak with him or her as soon as you notice any changes in mood or behavior, and reassure your child that the dissolution of your marriage is in no way their responsibility.
You will need to advocate for your child
Although awareness and acceptance of autism have increased over the last decade, the courts and family services may struggle with aiding autistic children. You have to prepare to be your child’s advocate. No one else will know what your child really needs and what supports, situations, and interventions can improve his or her quality of life.
You will need to tell your attorney if you have reason to believe your former spouse cannot provide the stability and routine that promote the best functionality in autistic children. Your attorney can help you with documenting events and gathering evidence.
Prepare for complications, but stay steady for your child
You must also be prepared to have every aspect of your custody, parenting and support agreements carefully scrutinized. The court and its officers will have a minimal understanding of your child’s needs and why he or she requires deviation from standards, such as traditional visitation schedules or increased amounts of child support. Working with an attorney is the best way to present necessary testimony and documentation to the courts to protect your autistic child during the divorce proceedings.