Raising a special needs child has a profound impact on how you parent. Whether your child has autism, ADHD or Down syndrome, you will have to adjust your approach to parenting, as well as your expectations for your child to fit with their unique needs.
Going through a divorce when you have a special needs child is particularly trying. It may mean that you will have to share custody for the rest of your child’s life. If they do not achieve independence, you and your spouse may have to share parenting duties forever.
You may also need to adjust how you approach parental responsibilities and custody issues to make things better for your kid. Thankfully, there are some less common approaches that can offer benefits to families with special-needs children during and after a divorce.
Nesting can help preserve the daily routine of your child
All children need routine and structure, but this is particularly true for special needs children. Divorce often brings with it drastic changes that can cause developmental setbacks even in neurotypical children. For special needs children, a change to the daily routine or their living environment could be very damaging.
Your family can attempt to offset that by keeping the child in the family home. Nesting is a parenting situation where the child remains in the family home full-time and the parents either live separately in the house or each have an outside home of their own where they go when it is not their custody time.
This helps promote stability and keeps the child from experiencing fear or panic as their living circumstances change. It may require additional assets and a lot of work, but nesting can be an option for families with special needs.
A soft landing helps ensure that there is help nearby
A soft landing is another divorce practice that has potential benefits for special needs children. In this scenario, the parent who leaves the marital home will secure a rental or new home nearby. Ideally, both parents will live within a few blocks of one another. This helps ensure that the child has as much time as possible with both parents. It also helps in cases of sudden emergencies. One parent can quickly call the other for help if something arises, without needing to wait for a long commute.
Divorcing with a special needs child is not as easy or straightforward as you might hope. However, you and your spouse can work together to devise strategies to reduce the impact of your family changes on your children. Being flexible and creative with your custody arrangements, as well as considering unusual solutions, such as nesting parenting arrangements or a soft landing, may be in the best interest of everyone in your family.