Developing Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children

When you and your spouse were together, you both did your part to parent your special needs child to the best of your abilities. You didn’t think about sharing the work equally or who did what; you hopefully both stepped up as much as possible to ensure your child was happy and healthy.

Now that you’re no longer together, however, you need to determine how you will share responsibilities. The details of the shared responsibilities are laid out in an agreement or court order.  Sometimes when laid out in an agreement, the responsibilities become what is known as a parenting plan.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a document that details how you and your co-parent will raise your child after you have parted ways.  You will include things like when and how often the child will visit each parent, who will have the child for the holidays, guidelines for traveling with the child, who will make decisions regarding the child’s education and healthcare, who will oversee extracurricular activities for the child, and how you will resolve any issues that you have with one another.

Parenting plans that are not detailed enough, don’t factor in costs, don’t mention what happens if parents move, and that don’t address disagreements may cause more issues—and potentially more litigation—for parents down the line so it is important to be thorough from the outset.

Considerations with Parenting Plans for Special Needs Children

If you have a special needs child, your parenting plan will look a little different. While all the basics still have to be included, you’ll also need provisions that address your child’s special needs.

For example, you should detail who will be responsible for things like paying for, picking up, and administering medications, paying for and taking the child to doctor’s visits, paying for and operating essential medical equipment, overseeing nutritional needs, and paying for/finding doctors and therapists to fulfill the child’s needs.

Additionally, the plan will have to answer questions like: 

  • Will both parents’ homes be outfitted for the child’s needs?
  • Will parents live close enough to a special needs school and/or programs?
  • Can parents travel with the child and, if so, what will be required?
  • Will parents hire help like nannies and nurses?

Both parents will need to work together to come up with a schedule for the special needs child, taking into account what types of visitation will be easiest for the child. For instance, it could make more sense for a child to be with one parent for one week and then go to the other parent’s house for the next week because switching off every few days may be too physically and cognitively difficult on the child.  Under a different scenario this may not be feasible or in the child’s best interest.

Of course, everything in the special needs parenting plan depends on what specific needs your child has. If your child is in a wheelchair, for example, they will need to live in a home with a ramp. If noise agitates your child, there should be parameters in place to ensure accommodations for that.

It can all seem very overwhelming, and you may not think of everything on your own. Instead of trying to write the plan by yourself, you should seek help.

Coming Up with the Parenting Plan

You can find help in the form of your child’s doctors/therapists, educators, and helpers, as well as a family law attorney.

Ask qualified medical professionals as well as educators about their recommendations for your plan. These professionals have worked with parents going through the same issues as you and will be able to give you some valuable insights.

A family law attorney will be there for you when you’re ready to file for divorce and sort out child custody. The legal system can be complicated and you want to make sure you’re doing what’s best for your child. By having an experienced attorney by your side, you will be able to develop a comprehensive parenting plan and navigate the divorce process with support.

Contact Cate & Brough Law Firm for Assistance with Parenting Plans and Other Family Legal Matters

If you need help with any type of family legal matter in South Carolina, Cate & Brough Law Firm is ready to go to work for you. Our firm is focused exclusively on family law, and we have several decades of experience helping clients with even the most complex cases.

To schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team, message us online or call our office today at (864) 585-4226. We look forward to serving you!

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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