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How Is Custody Decided for a Special Needs Child?

special needs child

As the parent of a special needs child, you may already know all too well how your parenting styles and responsibilities are unique to that of a parent of a child without special needs. Therefore, a Tennessee family court may take a different approach to deciding on your child custody arrangement. Continue reading to learn how custody is decided for a special needs child and how one of the experienced Clarksville child custody lawyers at Fendley and Etson can fight on your behalf for the best possible outcome.

How might a custody arrangement be decided on for a special needs child?

The Tennessee family court always works toward a custody arrangement that meets the child’s needs and meets their best interests. Usually, this translates into a joint custody order. With this, the child splits their time evenly between both parents, all while both parents have an equal say in the child’s education, religion, healthcare, and other essential matters.

However, the court may not deem joint custody as the best arrangement for a special needs child. For example, if your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, they may struggle with frequent changes and instead thrive in a structured routine. Therefore, the court may believe it to be in your child’s best interest to live solely with one parent, with frequent visitation by the other. With this, the court may consider the following factors when deciding which parent is to be awarded sole physical custody:

  • The parent who stepped up as the primary caregiver of the special needs child during the marriage.
  • The proximity from each parent’s house to the special needs child’s school and healthcare facilities.
  • The flexibility of each parent’s work schedule to take the special needs child to doctor’s appointments.
  • The mental strength and willingness of each parent to talk with specialists about the special needs child’s treatment plans.

Rest assured, the court may not have a problem granting joint legal custody over your child.

How might a child support arrangement look like with a special needs child?

Simply put, the Tennessee family court may order the non-custodial parent of a special needs child to higher child support payments. This is because there are increased financial burdens that may come with caring for and raising a special needs child, such as the following:

  • The cost of medical treatments and therapies.
  • The cost of particular medications and medical equipment.
  • The cost of private school or special education tuition.
  • The cost of special childcare needs.
  • The cost of special food needs.

You must not stand idly by when decisions are being made about your child. Instead, you must take immediate action and retain the services of one of the skilled Clarksville family lawyers. Contact Fendley and Etson today.