Divorce is rarely an easy process for the couple involved, especially when they’re parents. It can get even more complicated, however, when they have a child with autism. Many autistic children rely heavily on routines to help them manage their anxiety and stress, and a divorce – by its very nature – disrupts everything about a family’s life.
How do you handle co-parenting after divorce when your child is autistic? There are no right answers that fit every situation. Instead, there are only things that you and your co-parent need to consider carefully as you work out your agreement regarding possession and access (custody and visitation).
How well does your child adjust to changes over time?
No two autistic children are exactly alike, and some can adjust more rapidly to changes than others. If your child is at a developmental stage that makes changes in their living situation a nightmare experience, you may need to think about keeping them in their current home, if possible.
That could mean adopting a “bird nesting” agreement, where you and your co-parent rotate in and out of the family home during your parenting times, while your child stays put. It could mean that one parent needs to stay in the family home, so that the child can remain in familiar surroundings.
How much caretaking does your child need?
Some autistic kids can function fairly independently, especially as they get older – while others require round-the-clock care. If one parent has always served as the child’s primary caregiver, it may not be possible for you to suddenly split the responsibilities.
In a situation like that, the parent who handles the child’s care may need additional financial support from their co-parent so that they can continue to fulfill their role. That means evaluating your financial agreements carefully so that your child’s needs can be met.
Working out a parenting plan and the financial aspects of a divorce with children isn’t easy, even less so when the child has unique needs. Having experienced legal guidance can make it easier.