Children who have special needs require specialized parenting plans that reflect the child's unique capacity to make transitions, to have health care needs met, and to have therapeutic services provided in each home.
Powerpoint parenting plans for children with special needs
Divorce: Creating Parenting
Plans for Children with Special
Created and Presented by
Brenda McCreight Ph.D.
What is a parenting plan…
A written agreement that can be made with our without the help of
Parenting Plans (aka PP’s) outline how the divorcing parents will
share the ongoing parenting of the child or children
- how decisions about the child will be made
- how information will be shared between parents
- the time the child will spend with each parent
- how the child will be transferred between parents
-child support, medical care, education, religion, leisure etc.
A parenting plan should reflect the interests and needs of the child, not the
A parenting plan can reduce conflict between parents by setting out clear
guidelines and expectations
Every plan is unique…
There are some basic items in most PPs, but each is unique and will be
based on the child’s age, health, developmental stage and any unique
The wishes of older children may be considered
Standard parenting plan items….
Parental responsibilities: The responsibility of the parents to make
decisions about the child’s life. These can include decisions about
daily care, as well as larger ones about health care, education,
religious upbringing, extracurricular activities, etc. Will one parent
have primary responsibilities or will it be shared?
Parental relocation (What if one parent proposes to move? What if
one parent proposes to move with the child? How much notice
should be given e.g. 30, 45, 60 days? How will notice be given e.g.
e-mail, letter? Will consent of the other parent be required when the
move of a child is proposed? How will parenting arrangements be
Communication with child while with the other parent (phone, e-mail,
Altering the parenting schedule for things such as illness, lateness, social
events, special occasions, unforeseen events. How will schedule changes
be managed? How much notice of the change is required? Will there be
Transferring the child’s belongings between homes. (Will the child have
two sets of some items? Who will purchase which items for your child?)
Child's social life (How will the child spend time with friends? Who will take
the child to social events such as birthday parties or sleepovers? Who will
buy gifts for the child to give?)
Vacation, holidays and special days such as Mother’s Day and child’s
Extra-curricular activities (can both
parents attend and who pays?)
Contact time with grandparents, step siblings and extended family
Communication between parents
Altering the parenting plan
A plan for resolving disagreements
Other parenting issues
Child and spousal support
The content, complexity and detail of
the PP will depend on the needs and
relationships of the child and parents. High conflict couples may have very
There are many, many forms of behaviors and conditions that can be
considered *special needs*.
These are generally categorized as a) medical issues; b) behavior
issues c) learning issues; d) mental health issues; e) developmental
issues. Some of the conditions that would be included in these categories
Chronic depression/mood disorders
Central auditory processing
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
Neurodevelopmental challenges resulting from early neglect and/or abuse
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Many, many more
Children with special needs require special parenting plans
The professional who is undertaking the PP doesn’t need to be an
expert in the condition of the child, but should be prepared to
immediately learn as much as possible and be prepared to consult
The parents have likely incorporated medical or psychological
terminology into their everyday vocabulary and the professional
needs to learn those words asap and may have to include them in
the final PP document
Finances may be particularly complicated due to how the separation
impacts entitlement to tax breaks, to financial aid, to support
services, to spousal and child support beyond the age of majority
First questions …
Is there an official diagnosis? Do each of the ex-spouses agree on the
Who made the diagnosis?
Does the child have an education plan in place? Supports?
Has any testing been done? By whom?
Is the condition ‘curable’ or treatable? Is the child expected to improve? Is
the condition terminal?
Is there a medical condition attached to the developmental or behavioural
If this is a mental health or behavioral condition – what therapists and what
therapies are in place? Do the parents agree on these?
The second set of questions…
Are there any special financial needs?
Are these special and additional expenses reimbursed by the
state/province, private insurance, or the board of education?
Are they ongoing, recurring, non-recurring?
Are there any anticipated future expenses?
What is the child’s daily schedule? Who organizes and maintains this
Can the needs of the identified child be met with the same arrangements
as the needs of the other children in the family?
Third set of questions…
Does the child have issues with transitioning between one environment to
What are the dietary special needs? Can both parents manage these?
Who pays for them?
Are there medications? How are they administered and by whom? Who
pays for them?
Is there any special training or extraordinary time commitment one parent
needs to have vs. another parent?
How does the child with special needs impact the other child(ren) in the
What are the special financial resources needed for the other non-special
needs children due to the special needs child requiring so much attention?
- Example: Sam Jones and Sarah Jones have 4 children. Three are
neurotypical - Emily age 12, Dawson age 10 and Joey age 8. Angie, age
11, has severe autism and requires support workers 2 hours a day in the
home and all day in the school setting. She goes to respite one weekend a
month and is often hospitalized for self harming behaviors.
Jim wants shared parenting responsibilities with the 3 neurotypical children
alternating residences on a weekly rotation but he only wants one Saturday
a month with Angie in his care. Sarah never stopped working part time as a
dental hygienist and she wants the same shared parenting for all 4 children
so that she can continue working.
1) Which parent has historically managed Angie’s primary care?
2) Which parent has managed the medical and other supports for Angie?
3) To which parent does Angie best respond?
4) Can Angie make the same transitions between homes as her siblings?
Can Angie manage transitions from one home to the other?
5) Will the support staff work in both homes?
6) How will the change in parental income effect any financial supports that
7) What is the long term impact on spousal and child support if Angie is not
able to become independent in adulthood?
7) If there is special equipment in the home or the car, can it be transferred
between homes on a regular basis?
8) What are the plans for the times when Angie won’t comply to the transfer
8) What do the siblings want?
9) Is Angie able to give an opinion on what she would like?
10) Can either parent manage Angie alone for any length of time?
Example # 2 …
Jim and Martha have 2 children – Marcus age 10 and Jonas age 9. Jonas
has Muscular Dystrophy which requires a special bed, breathing
equipment, a complicated medication procedure, and a wheelchair . The
separation resulted in the sale of the family home and Martha has
temporarily moved with the children into the large home of her parents.
Martha has been the main caregiver and has not worked out side of the
home since Jonas was born. Jim has rented a small apartment nearby.
The living arrangements are expected to change when the financial part of
the divorce is settled. The couple are experiencing high conflict on the
financials and there is no resolution in sight. Jim wants both children two
evenings a week and every other weekend. Martha would welcome the
break but doesn’t think Jim has a clue about how to care for Jonas so she
isn’t willing to agree to his request at this time, but may when some of her
concerns are addressed.
Should this be a final PP or an interim PP?
What is the capacity of either home to physically manage Jonas’ medical
equipment? To manage the transfer of the equipment?
What does Jim understand about Jonas’ needs?
If Jim’s knowledge base isn’t adequate - What is Jim willing to learn about
Jonas’ needs? Can he identify a learning plan?
What are the long term spousal and child support implications? Tax
Example # 3…
Donna and Jason adopted 12 year old Hayden when he was 7 years old.
Hayden has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Attention Hyperactivity
Disorder, and Reactive Attachment Disorder. He presents severe
behavioural challenges and his therapist recently stated that she is
concerned that he may be in the early stages of Conduct Disorder
The ex-spouses would like to share parenting responsibilities with a 50/50
split transitioning on alternate weeks.
The ex’s have settled the financial aspects of the agreement.
How well does Hayden manage transitions?
Do both parents understand the diagnoses?
Do both parents have appropriate parenting strategies?
How will being separated from one parent for a week at a time impact
Hayden’s attachment challenges?
Should the therapist be consulted?
Are there ways to keep Hayden
connected to the non-resident
parent? Does he need to be
*Special needs* includes a large number of conditions that might be
categorized as medical, mental health, behavioral, learning,
developmental, or a combination of any
Children with special needs require detailed and condition specific
Children with special needs may require a parenting arrangement that is
different from that of the siblings
The professional undertaking the Parenting Plan should become familiar
with the condition and with the jargon and be prepared to consult an expert
Financial aspects of this kind of PP can be very complex and detailed and
may need to change substantially over time
Parenting plan templates…
I have provided these as a resource. This is neither an
endorsement nor a criticism of any of these.
Thank you for sharing this time with me…
You can contact me at the following:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Phone 250-716-9101
Or via my websites:
Hazardous Parenting Facebook page
Please check out some of my other Powerpoint
presentations at http://www.slideshare.com
Brenda McCreight Ph.D.
Reg. Clinical Social Worker # 4399
Reg. Clinical Counsellor # 235
Reg. Professional Counsellor & Psychotherapist # 1126
Certified> Family Mediation
Certified> Conflict Resolution
Certified> Divorce Coach