Written by attorney Christopher M. Migliaccio

Special Needs Child in Custody Cases

If a child has special needs, the child custody issues can be even more complicated and stressful for both the parents and the child. Before embarking on the case, one should learn as much as possible about the Texas child custody process and how a child’s special needs may affect the outcome of the case. A Dallas child custody lawyer can help handle these cases.

Who qualifies as a special needs child?

There are a wide variety of conditions that can qualify as special needs. They may include learning disabilities, serious cognitive delays, and other conditions. From a custody standpoint, “special needs" simply means that the child requires specific types of care and assistance in order to grow and thrive; custody arrangements should allow for the best conditions under which the child’s needs can be met.

How Custody Is Decided in a Special Needs Child Custody Case

In Texas – as in other states – courts decide custody matters based on ‘the best interests of the child." This means that they look at both parents’ living situations and determine how each one can best benefit the child’s mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. A parenting plan is then created that takes all this (as well as both parents’ rights) into consideration.

In a special needs child custody case, the court will likely consider factors such as:

  • which parent has been the child’s primary caregiver and understands the most about the child’s condition;
  • which parent has closer access to any special care or services the child might need, for example, physical therapy, specialized medical care, or counseling services;
  • the schedules and general availability of each parent;
  • the child’s general comfort level and relationship with each parent; and
  • how well the child would likely adjust to new living arrangements.

In any Texas child custody case, the court may be reluctant to subject a child to any more upheaval than necessary when it comes to moving, changing schools, etc. This is especially true in the case of a special needs child who may have a much-needed support system and daily routine already firmly in place to help deal with daily challenges.

Exploring Legal Options with a Dallas Child Custody Lawyer

For any Texas child custody case, particularly those involving special needs kids, mediation or collaborative family law may be good options. These methods allow the parents (and their Dallas child custody lawyers) to negotiate amicably rather than fighting it out in a courtroom setting and can help ensure a plan is developed based on the child’s particular needs.

These litigation alternatives can also make for a less stressful experience for both the parents and the child, which can be highly desirable for a family sensitive to a child’s medical or developmental needs.

But each family and each case is unique. When facing something as important as the future of a special needs child, a custody lawyer can be very helpful. Having legal guidance from a Dallas child custody lawyer during this time can help move the process along to reach a fair and desirable special needs child custody resolution.

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