A while back I read an article (‘Divorce and Autism’) decrying the one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach that the family court system takes in working with families with special needs children. I couldn’t agree more that this approach does a serious disservice to families that already have a lot to deal with and I’m impressed by how much divorce mediation helps special needs families.
In divorce mediation we have the flexibility to address special needs issues in a much more specific and practical manner so that we set up the parenting schedule, as well as many other aspects of parenting, to minimize issues and keep the special needs of the child at the forefront of the discussions.
This can be especially true when working with children on the autism spectrum if they need additional structure and routine. In mediation, we explore creative ways to balance the special needs of the child with making sure that both parents can be actively involved. One of my favorite approaches is to replace midweek “overnights” with midweek “evenings”. Instead of having the children change where they sleep every couple of nights, we have the other parent spend an evening (often from 5 – 8pm) with the children. This way, both parent and the child get to spend the majority of the active afterschool time together having a meal, doing some homework and enjoying some playtime without the stressors of moving back and forth between homes for the child. This is just one example of the helpful approaches that can be utilized when parents sit down together to discuss how best to meet their children’s needs.
Additionally, divorce mediation generally costs about 10% (Divorce Mediation FAQs) of the cost of a litigated divorce so the parents can conserve their resources for addressing the financial demands of raising a special needs child. If any of your clients could use helpful divorce resources please feel free to check out: https://davismediation.com/helpful-divorce-resources/
There is no doubt that parenting a special needs child can be stressful and can create tensions between the parents that can continue during the divorce process. However, the parents stand a much greater chance of being able to agree upon an appropriate schedule and then successfully implement the schedule when they have the opportunity to sit around the table and constructively at dress their children’s needs (as opposed to preparing for battle by getting attorneys in going to court).