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Special Considerations in Deciding Custody of a Special Needs Child

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Choosing a suitable child custody arrangement becomes more complicated when you're talking about the well being of a child with special needs. It can be especially difficult for single parents who lack adequate financial resources and family assistance. Here are some important and unique factors that come into play in custody cases for special needs children.

Needing to Understand the Child's Special Needs

Parents of a child with special needs and their attorneys must first understand the child's condition or disability. Before beginning the custody determination, parents and attorneys should:

  • Speak to the child
  • Speak to parents
  • Speak to health care officials
  • Speak to school officials
  • Consult public resources and gather information on the child's needs

Considering Unique Factors for Children with Special Needs

There are several issues that must be considered when considering which parent should maintain custody of a child with special needs. Deciding factors are:

  • Level of communication between parents
  • Availability of child care resources
  • Mental and physical health of the child and the parents -- some children's needs are so extensive that a parent may not be able to handle it on their own
  • Child's current adjustment to a new home, school, community or religion
  • Child's ability to adjust to a new home, school, community or religion
  • Medical care available for the child

Another point that will need to be considered is time. Managing a child with special needs can be very demanding and will require more time and resources from parents. Single parents and their legal representatives will need to weigh all of these issues before determining custody.

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