Apr 8, 2021
Episode 84: Divorce and Special Needs Children With Guest Jackie Harounian
In this episode, we discuss divorce while having children with special needs. Guest Jacqueline Harounian, Esq, has found that her field has become very busy during COVID, with an increase in fighting, domestic violence, mental health issues, and substance abuse leading to divorce. A lot depends on the couple, how well they communicate, and whether they are willing to see eye to eye on a lot of issues affecting special needs children. To avoid divorce, keep the lines of communication. More divorced families are using joint custody. The better the attitude of the family, the easier the divorce will be on the children.
When one is divorcing and has children, it is important that parents agree on where the children live and how they will be supported. The goal for divorce should be to avoid court, for the two parents to reach an agreement without a judge. It is best if parents work out their own schedule based on the needs of the child, replicate the schedule that was going on before the divorce, and see which parent is available when and what they are able to do or help with. If parents cannot do it themselves, it would be beneficial to sit down together with a coach, mediatory, or lawyer. Cases that go to trial are very costly.
For a divorce where children have special needs, sometimes one parent disagrees with the diagnosis or treatment, doesn’t think that a medication or treatment is necessary, parents disagree on vaccines, or there is a major issue and the parties don’t agree and one parent doesn’t agree with the doctor or medical advice.
Joint custody occurs when the parents equally split the time and resources with the children. It requires that the parents communicate well, get along well, and live in the same school district. Because everything is equal, no one pays child support.
Everyone reacts to divorce differently, impacted by the interactions and relationships of the parents, unresolved anger, and the desire to blame and shame one another. Counseling is beneficial for couples. For those with children with special needs, there is the added concern of finances, so compromising and budgeting in important. To manage financial hardship, get bank statements and tax returns in order, get your finances in order, get paystubs, create a budget, start to have conversations with your co-parent about the timeline, and discuss what you are going to do with your assets.
To make the divorce process easier on the parents, ask for help, reach out to family and friends, ask for breaks, try new things in your life, try to have a team approach with your team, try to be united in how your raise your child, practice forgiveness, maintain a positive attitude, maintain consistency, and improve communication with your co-parent.
To best explain divorce to children with special needs, do the announcement with your partner, in a non-emotional way, and at a time where the children have time to ask questions and have a chance to react, don’t make the announcement too early, and don’t tell them more than they need to know. Consider making the announcement on the weekend so the child has time to adjust to the information.
The impact of divorce on the child is dependent on the child and the age of the child. Consider conferring with your child’s therapist before making the announcement. Be mindful of their schedules and routines and minimize disruptions and changes in routines. Account for the child’s own stressors and preferences. With children with special needs, it is even more important to keep everything consistent. Consider psychotherapy for the children.
Keep in mind, it is not about winning, it is about moving forward. Parents can help their children cope by not fighting in front of them, not discussing financials in front of the child, not letting others talk negatively about the situation, not disagreeing in front of them, trying to reach an agreement on custody as soon as possible, and not focusing on the financials first. Easier and less expensive ways to divorce include using a mediator or doing collaborative law.
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Hosted by: Jessica Temple
Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Temple