The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services date back to 2006 and indicate that 14.4 percent of Minnesota children have special health care needs. Since 13 percent of the families with those children reported an unmet need for specific health care services and significant numbers reported a lack of family and other types of support, the burden falls on the families to try to provide the care their children need.
Unfortunately, each Minneapolis divorce attorney at our firm has seen too many parents who could not emotionally get through the stress of this type of special challenge. Particularly for marriages that already lack firm footing, these issues often represent another step toward divorce. Still, parents need to recognize that special needs children need and deserve special handling before and during the divorce process as well.
“Best Interests of the Children” Takes on New Meaning for Special Needs Children
In divorce issues involving the custody and support of the children, Section 518.17 of the Minnesota statutes require the courts to evaluate any special needs of the children and each parent’s willingness and ability to meet their needs. Considering that a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health showed that parents with children with autism spectrum disorder had a 10 percent higher rate of divorce than those who did not face this challenge, it seems likely that some parents cannot face other challenges as well, even when they attempt to work as a team.
This is why the Minnesota courts consider issues like the following when deciding custody:
- The need for special parenting arrangements based on special medical, mental health and educational needs
- Historical information that provides evidence of each parent’s past participation in child care
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to provide ongoing care for the child
Of course, these and other points do not come close to describing the full details necessary to make this important decision. Parents need to provide as much evidence as possible so that the courts can find solutions that can help ensure that the children have the brightest futures possible.
The Divorce Process Can Have its Own Negative Effects on Special Needs Children
Making the decision to divorce — and the divorce process itself — are bound to affect all children over the short or long term. However, when the children have special needs, they are more likely to view themselves as the reason behind household conflicts and the eventual loss of one parent.
A frank conversation about these issues with an experienced Minneapolis divorce lawyer can be a vital step that helps the children receive the special protections they require during the process. We can help guide parents to display a cooperative spirit in front of the children while negotiating the terms of divorce and we can recommend counseling resources, if necessary. Call us at (763) 783-5146 or use our convenient contact form to obtain the knowledgeable and compassionate support needed for guidance during a challenging time.