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Hello, I am Andrew Feldstein of the Feldstein Family Law Group.

When parents decide to divorce or separate, the drastic changes in the family and home can be difficult for any child to understand or accept.

When dealing with children’s issues, I emphasize to my clients the need to communicate with the other parent, to work together and to prioritize the child’s needs and interests before their own. This approach is even more necessary when a non-neurotypical child is involved.

Non-neurotypical children, those on the autism spectrum, dislike disturbances in routine and do not adapt well to change. Divorce, separation, and the resulting transition to a post-separation family can be especially difficult – and terrifying – for non-neurotypical children as it disrupts the stability and routine they depend on.

It is crucial for parents of non-neurotypical children to be in agreement on major decisions such as the child’s care, wellbeing, medical treatment, and special education needs. Many children on the autism spectrum require counselling, therapy, and other specialized programs. If parents cannot cooperate or come to an agreement with respect to a child’s medical and educational needs, they risk preventing their child from receiving necessary treatment.

Transitioning from an intact family to a post-separation care arrangement requires communication and proactive cooperation between the parents. Fighting over custody will only further complicate the transition for a non-neurotypical child by prolonging the transition and delaying the settling of a routine.

Your child’s wellbeing and best interests should ALWAYS be the top priority. Every parent’s focus should be on easing the change in routine and lifestyle for their child. A good approach is to make slow and gradual changes to ease the transition. Pay attention to how your child adapts to the changes, where there are areas of stress, and listen to their feedback. Consider suggestions from the child’s specialist, if any.

It is important to recognize that common parenting arrangements for neurotypical families may not work for non-neurotypical children. Any decision regarding primary residence, shared parenting, decision making, and other custody related matters must be adaptable to the particular needs, comfort, and preferences of your specific child.

Decisions regarding primary residence and access schedules should be based with your child’s needs in mind and not what is convenient for you. For example, when determining with which parent your child will live, consider each parent’s role and ability in facilitating the child’s particular needs and the location of the child’s residence going forward. Has one parent been the child’s primary caretaker? Is the caretaker parent going to remain in the matrimonial home with the child? Which parent is better at handling homework with the child? Can the other parent do the same? Is the child more comfortable with one parent’s cooking? What was the routine like prior to separation?

Furthermore, the typical equal time or shared parenting arrangement requires transporting children between two different households to spend time with each parent. This is convenient for parents as it often minimizes contact with their former spouse. However, some non-neurotypical children find the movement between two different routines and spaces highly stressful and unpleasant. As an alternative to the traditional shared parenting arrangement, consider having the child remain in their primary residence where the other parent can visit and have their parenting time.

The issues I have discussed are just a few to keep in mind. Remember that being proactive and cooperative in a separation involving autistic children is central to a successful transition and going forward. The need for flexibility and understanding of your child’s needs does not end when a custody arrangement is first created. Laying a foundation for effective communication and co-parenting early on can only benefit your child going forward.

Thank you for watching my video. Should you require further information and wish to schedule a consultation, please visit our website or call our office at 905-581-7222. Thank you.