SPECIAL ISSUE: SPECIAL NEEDS CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY COURT: Special Needs Children in Family Court Cases Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2005 Blackwell Publishing
Family Court Review


October, 2005

43 Fam. Ct. Rev. 566


Donald T. Saposnek, Heidi Perryman, Josanna Berkow and Sherrill Ellsworth


Recent years have seen a significant increase in the population of young children with special needs, including acute, life-threatening medical conditions; chronic developmental disorders; and psychological and behavioral syndromes 1 (Faltz, 2004; Saint Paul Pioneer Press, 2004; Kober, Jennings, Rentner, Brand, & Cohen, 2001). These are children for whom ordinary parenting skills are insufficient. They require extraordinary parenting and place extraordinary demands upon the adults who care for them (Lavin, 2001). In fact, conflict, marital separation, and divorce are often an unfortunate consequence of trying to raise these high-maintenance children (Ball, 2002; Gath, 1977; Hodapp & Krasner, 1995; Lemer & Spanier, 1978; Tseng, Arensdorf, McDermott, Hansen, & Fukunaga, 1976). 2 Moreover, the stress of parental separation and divorce exacerbates the symptoms of these children, makes them harder to care for at a time when there are fewer resources to go around, and impacts the entire family in unique and often profound ways. It is because of these consequences that these families are more likely to appear in family court.

The ubiquitous presence of these children in family court cases suggests that court personnel and divorce professionals need to acquire special knowledge in order to facilitate the development of appropriate parenting plans for these high-risk families. This article will present basic knowledge of these conditions, the special parenting provisions needed for these children, perspectives from the judiciary, and strategies for divorce professionals to use in developing parenting plans that are appropriately sensitive to the child's and family's ...
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