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Divorcing when your child is on the autism spectrum

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Family Law

Going through a divorce is difficult for all Florida parents, but for those with special needs children, the challenges can be much greater. Parents who have an autistic child may worry about the transitional period after the divorce, when the child will have to adapt to new living arrangements and other major life changes. If you have a child on the autism spectrum and are ready to file for divorce, it’s important to help your child understand the process in age-appropriate ways to minimize stress and confusion.

Deciding custody arrangements

When deciding on the custody arrangement, it’s important to remember to focus on what’s best for your child. If your child struggles with change, you may wish to work with the other party to create an arrangement that has as little change as possible. For some couples, this can mean using the bird-nesting approach where the child remains in the home and parents switch back and forth when it’s their time to be with the child.

Bird-nesting may not work for everyone, but there are other ways to make the living situation feel stable for your child. Some kids may do better alternating weeks while others may benefit from a set schedule where they spend certain days with each parent every week. Be flexible, and understand that you may have to adjust the custody arrangement as time goes on and your child’s needs change.

Helping your child understand the changes

You know your child better than anyone, so you can decide how best to explain the divorce to them. Some parents choose to have a custody schedule written on a calendar in a prominent place in the home, so a child always knows what’s happening the next day. Be sure to remind your child of who will be taking them to activities and which parent will be picking them up from school or activities so there are no surprises.

Kids are not able to understand the complexities of divorce, but they can often benefit from speaking to a counselor or therapist if you find they are struggling to adapt. Routines, schedules and reminders can help your child prepare for what’s ahead each day. When possible, it’s helpful if both parties have similar routines at each home so your child has familiarity even when living in two homes.

Legal advice

Divorcing when you have minor children is never easy. But when you have a child on the autism spectrum, you may worry about how they’ll adapt to life after divorce. To make the transition go as smoothly as possible, you can seek advice from someone experienced in Florida family law matters who can help you make the right choices for yourself and your child.