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How is custody determined for special needs children?

Virginia judges will examine the best interests of a child when deciding how a child custody arrangement will proceed. But when that child is disabled or has special needs, determining custody will require a deeper examination of the child’s state of health as well as psychological and emotional concerns. Sometimes a custody arrangement will address issues that a more standard custody arrangement will not. describes certain problems a special needs child may have. Children that may be autistic, or have separation anxiety, or possess sensory or behavioral issues may not be able to handle the kind of custody schedule that more typical custody arrangements provide. Leaving their current home can disorient them or aggravate their condition. The best bet for these children is to remain in their present home and follow their ordinary routine as closely as possible.

Special needs considerations also factor into which parent has primary custody. In some instances, a child may have a greater attachment to one parent over another, not because the child does not love the other parent, but because of the role that parent plays in that child’s life. That parent may provide vital assistance in the child’s homework or other daily activities, or may be a rock of support that the child needs to get through the day without anxiety or fear.

Judges may take many other factors into account. One variable is whether the child can travel smoothly and without problems between the homes of the two parents. Special needs children might also require ease of communication to a parent through the use of media like texting, Skype or a phone conversation. Also, a child’s ability to be away from a main custodial parent will be scrutinized. A child who cannot endure being away from a parent may require more custody time with that parent.

Basically, a child custody arrangement involving a special needs child can be much more complicated than other custody arrangements. A successful custody agreement will depend on the desire of both parents to cooperate and a close examination of the child’s mental, physical and emotional issues.

This article is intended to educate readers on child custody issues and is not intended as legal advice.

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Alexandria, VA 22314

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