Your Divorce and your Special Needs Child
August 25, 2009
Your Divorce and Your Handicapped Child
When a child or adolescent needs special help managing behavior and / or coping with the symptoms of mental health disorders, families usually have to maneuver painstakingly through a maze of county, state, and federal regulations, agencies, and the individuals who represent them; in order to learn how to best advocate for their handicapped or special needs child. Combine these with a divorce, child custody battle; or with a death in the family and a probate court case; and the difficulty of everything, especially for your child, is multiplied.
Divorce Law and Disability Law
If you are the parent of a handicapped child and are undergoing divorce you will have to learn about not only family law but also the fundamental principles and procedures involved in disability law, special education, civil rights legislation including human rights legislation, IDEA legislation, The Minnesota Children’s Mental Health Act, county services, and quite possibly juvenile justice proceedings and other laws.
You will need to understand the structure of the courts and the various bodies involved in your child’s well being. You’ll need to decide the best way to proceed when you and / or your child are called before an administrator, when you have to fill out what can seem an endless sea of paper forms, and you’ll need to decide what to do when you must appear in court. The more the courts are involved, the more likely it is you will need to retain a family law attorney or a disability lawyer.
You will have to understand the differences between these laws and be able to decide what is most appropriate to used for meeting your child’s needs.
Appeals Court and Administrative Appeals
You may not get what you need for your child at the outset. You may need to learn the procedures and forms and contacts needed to file an appeal or a complaint regarding an administrative decision or court ruling. While in many cases, especially regarding your disagreement with a rule or an administrative decision, you may not need an attorney; you may be served best by at least hiring a knowledgeable lawyer to review the paperwork involved in caring for your child. This costs less than retaining a lawyer to become your advocate, and if possible it will provide you some basic legal advice.
You Will Learn to be Your Child’s Most Powerful Advocate
Finally, you will have to become expert in advocating for your special needs child; and learn also how to avoid and resolve disputes regarding your children.
It sounds like a lot and it is. We don’t know of any attorney or advocate who can do all this for you, even when you can afford to hire such an expert. Unfortunately, in extreme cases you may need to retain one attorney for your divorce, and another for your handicapped child.
Advocating for your child in Minnesota
There are several organizations that can help.
The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health is a statewide education and advocacy organization and a primary resource for children’s mental health. MACMH produces more than nine children’s mental health publications and organizes the annual Child and Adolescent Mental Health Conference in Duluth, MN.
MACMH can be reached at The Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health
Another resource for parents of handicapped or special needs children is The Arc of Minnesota. The Arc of Minnesota is a private, non-profit, statewide voluntary organization. The mission of The Arc of Minnesota is to support and advocate for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families as they choose how they live, learn, work and play. The Arc of Minnesota fight for persons with developmental disabilities so they can reach for a brighter, more inclusive future.
The ARC of Minnesota can be reached at The ARC of Minnesota
Thanks to the Minnesota Association of Children’s Mental Health for supplying the information used in this blog.
Moore Family Law, P.A.