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What if my child has special needs?

When you're divorcing with children, issues like child custody and the visitation schedule take center stage. However, if you have a child with special needs, there may need to be even more care taken than usual to ensure that these decisions are being made in the best interests of the child.

In an ideal situation, both you and your ex are on the same page as far as recognizing your child's disability and what he will need throughout the divorce process and afterward. However, there are some cases where one parent does not want to acknowledge the child's special needs or disagrees with the other parent as to how the issues should be handled. If you're in the latter group, talking to your ex and trying to find a way to coparent is going to be the first step.

Next will be to sit down — ideally together — and figure out what your child is going to need. Every child with special needs is different, and how the disability is going to affect custody, visitation and child support will depend on the situation. If you and your ex can't agree on any of these issues, you will likely need documentation and possibly witness testimonies from your child's care team to help the courts make a decision.

Common modifications for a special needs child may include having more transition time incorporated into custody exchanges or a change in the child support to cover any extraordinary medical expenses. If you are considering a divorce in Colorado and have a child with special needs, it's important to let your attorney know as soon as possible so that he can be prepared to help you navigate these issues in court.

Source: American Bar Association, "When Parents of Children with Disabilities Divorce," Barbara Epperson, accessed July 18, 2016

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