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In Part VII of the Family Law Act (1975), there are not specific distinctions for children without special or higher needs when determining what is in the best interests of said child. These are, however, important in determining Orders that will adhere to the child’s best interests.
According to studies, parents of children with developmental disabilities are twice as likely to divorce than parents of children without such conditions (Bak & Dunn, 2022).
Children who require more medical, educational, or emotional care are referred to as having “special needs.” Developmental delay, mental health issues, ADHD, speech issues, autism, and physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities are a few of the more prevalent examples of special needs.
The difficulty for the Court in any of these cases seems to be in attentively identifying a child’s needs and then deciding whether to, when to, how to, and what to include in orders, especially given that many parents will provide the necessary support to their children without a Court order requiring them to do so.
Some of the particular challenges facing families of children with special needs are:
When determining parenting Orders in these situations, the Court would consider parental responsibility, as the change in routine that can come with equal shared parental responsibility can be distressing to children with certain conditions as changes in time spent with each parent. That does not mean that equal time will not be ordered, but it is definitely something to be considered.
The Court would also consider the care arrangements for the child, whether there are other children in the family, medical considerations, the capability of each parent to provide the level of care required, and the relationship of the parents.
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