How Are Custody Decisions Made for Special Needs Children?

family holding hands

Divorce or separation can cause heightened stress and emotions, especially when a child is involved. When determining guardianship of a child everyone’s main priority should be their health and well-being. This entails ensuring their needs are met so they can be happy and thrive in their environment. For a special needs child, there are additional factors that have to be considered by a court. A special needs child could be a child with any degree of physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral disability. To best protect your parental rights and ensure your child’s future, work with a Memphis, Tennessee child custody lawyer.

What Are the Types of Child Custody?

There are different types of child custody, including physical and legal, and joint or sole.

Physical custody refers to the location of where the child lives and the parent with whom the child resides a majority of the time. When both parents are awarded joint custody, it means they share custody of the child, usually equally. In terms of physical custody, this would mean that the child lives with both parents, alternating which home they stay at depending on an agreed-upon schedule. Sole physical custody means that the child will live only with one parent full time, though the other parent may be allowed visitation.

Legal custody includes the parent’s right to make decisions about the child, including education, religion, medical choices, and discipline. If parents are awarded joint legal custody it means that they both have the right to make important decisions for the child. If one parent is awarded sole legal custody, they are the only ones with the legal right to make those kinds of decisions.

Who Will Receive Custody of My Special Needs Child?

Every child and family is unique, so one solution will not fit all. For most special needs children, stability and routine are vitally important to their happiness and mental health. This means that in a lot of cases, joint physical custody will not be in the child’s best interest. If both parents cannot agree, the decision will be made by a judge.  The specific care that the child requires will have an impact on a court’s decision. Physical custody can be determined by several factors including:

  • Which parent has historically been the primary caregiver
  • The daily schedule of each parent
  • Where each parent lives in relation to the child’s school, doctor, friends, family, etc.
  • If each parent’s home is accessible and safe for the child (especially if there is a physical impairment)
  • Each parent’s ability and willingness to care for the child full time
  • The child’s preference

How Can An Attorney Help My Case?

Legal custody can be more complex to award, especially if you and the other parent have different views on how to raise your special needs child. A court will always try to keep both parents involved in a child’s life if possible. Attorneys are equipped with the experience and knowledge to handle your case. They are well aware of your rights as a parent and will build your case with strong evidence to help do what is right for you and your family. In any case, acquiring the services of an experienced lawyer will be exceedingly beneficial to you and your child.