Autism and Divorce

An emerging subject as our culture changes from the traditional 2 parent home to a greater number of divorcing parents is how the courts determine custody of a child with an autism spectrum disorder.   Generally the statutory factors are applied, but they can seem rather general.  A judge presiding over a custody dispute between the parents of an autistic child should be urged to consider the unique challenges presented in those special circumstances.  Those circumstances can vary greatly but should include findings regarding each parent’s role in obtaining the diagnosis; each parent’s ability to accept the diagnosis and seek appropriate treatment; each parent’s role in or participation in early intervention; the level of participation each parent has had in behavioral interventions; the level of education each parent has concerning the child’s diagnosis and treatment plan; and each parent’s ability to advocate for the child in an educational setting; and each parent’s understanding and appreciation of the need for intervention and special education.   All of these factors are very important to considering which parent (or whether both parents should be equally involved) is better equipped to assist the autistic child on a daily basis and provide a consistent and stable environment where the child can develop and progress at his or her own unique pace.

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