Factors That Determine Custody Of Children With Special Needs

Posted on: 31 May 2023

If your child has special needs, their unique needs may influence custody determination during a divorce. Below are factors courts consider in such child custody cases.

Daily Care

The parent taking care of the child's daily needs may have an edge over the other if the issue arises in court. The court may consider the parent who:

  • Helps the child bathe and groom
  • Helps the child with their oral hygiene
  • Takes the child to their medical consultations

The court may rationalize that the other parent is unwilling or unable to offer the services. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, leaving the child with a parent who cares for their daily needs is a wise choice.

Parent's Ability

Even if a parent is willing to care for their child's needs, the parent's ability might hamper their efforts. For example, a parent living with a disability might struggle to care for their child with basic needs. Other things that might affect the parent's efforts include the parent's work and availability.

Relocation Disruption

Special needs encompass several issues, including mental, physical, and emotional problems. Some of these, especially emotional and mental issues, make relocation difficult for children. For example, some children with emotional needs attach themselves to familiar things relocation can set back their improvement.

Say relocation might detach the child from familiar family members, friends, school, and even church. In such a case, leaving the child in their current surroundings may be best. You may need a professional's input, such as a psychological assessment, to ascertain whether this is the case for your child.

Special Schools and Health Providers

Some children with special needs need regular medical attention. Others need special schools with facilities that accommodate their abilities and teachers who understand and can deal with those abilities. In such a case, the child should live where they can easily access special schools and healthcare providers, even if it means staying in the current residence.  

House Design and Layout

Lastly, the nature and degree of the child's special needs matter. For example, some children with mobility issues need wheelchairs to move around. Since many houses don't provide wheelchair access, parents with such children usually modify their houses. Such modifications include:

  • Lowering light switches and electrical outlets
  • Widening hallways and entryways
  • Installing walk-in bathtubs and showers
  • Installing hard flooring

If that is the case, the custody assessment should consider which parent's residence provides such accommodations. Otherwise, the custody arrangement might be unfair to the child. For more information, contact a child custody lawyer near you.