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Custody for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Divorce and custody transfers are particularly difficult for families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Parents should ensure that the necessary transitions are handled as smoothly as possible to accommodate their children's anxieties.

Aversion to change is a central feature of autism, even for kids on the higher-functioning end of the spectrum. Parents in the throes of a divorce and custody battle may rightly assume that the court may not factor in the ramifications of their child's disorder when making a custody ruling.

As much as possible, elect to follow the same routine for your ASD child. For some, this can mean that mom and dad will move in and out of the family home when sharing parenting time with their child. This is not practical in all cases, however.

When a child with ASD has to transition between households to fulfill custodial stipulations, preparation is vital. Discuss the upcoming transfer in a matter of fact manner. School age children can help make calendars for the upcoming custody transfers. These can then be posted in both parents' homes as a visual reminder of their changing schedule.

Any school or extracurricular activities can also be included on the calendars, with the designation of which parent will accompany them. This forestalls surprises that can derail the best laid plans.

Even when the divorce is acrimonious, parents of ASD children need to be able to communicate. If talking together is impossible, arrange to communicate via text message, email or using a notebook for that specific purpose. Stay on topic and don't veer off into hot-button issues.

Child support can be a thorny issue, but the court uses specific formulas to calculate the amount to be paid by one parent to the other. These guidelines and formulas may not be sufficient to cover the needs of children with ASD, however. Your attorney can request a higher rate of child support be paid to cover the many additional needs of a disabled child.

Attorneys can also petition the court to mandate that one or both parents set up a special needs trust for their ASD child after age 18.

A Massachusetts family law attorney is a good source of advice when establishing custody and child support for children living with ASD.

Source: Center for Autism Research, "Divorce, Custody and ASD," accessed May. 28, 2015

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