Study Examines Prevalence of Divorce Among Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities

divorce and family

There are many types of outside pressures that can lead a married couple to divorce. Financial hardship, work-related stress and other factors often make it difficult for even loving spouses to stay connected. A child with autism or another type of developmental disability also has the potential to cause strain within a marital relationship.

A recent study followed families of autistic children more than 30 years to determine what effect a son or daughter’s condition had on their parents’ marriage. Catherine Lord, the head of the study and a professor at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine, said that the purpose was to identify specific timeframes and factors that increase the likelihood of divorce.

As the study was relatively small and many families dropped out over the three-decade period, it is difficult to declare definitive truths based on the review. However, these are some of the findings Lord and her team reported:

  • The period when divorce was most likely was the five years following the child’s birth.
  • During the teen years, parents of autistic children who were relatively high-functioning were more likely to break up than those whose children displayed more severe limitations.
  • By the time their autistic son or daughter reached 30 years old, 36 percent of parents had divorced. 

Negotiating child custody and support arrangements can be especially challenging when a divorcing couple has one or more children with developmental disabilities. Many young people with autism have difficulty adjusting to changes in their routine, which can lead to bad reactions and complicate visitation in a non-custodial parent’s home. Moreover, the standard child support guidelines might not apply because a caregiver must be hired or the child has to attend an expensive school that meets their needs. 

Since each custody situation is unique, it is important to work with an experienced attorney when one or more of your children is on the autism spectrum or has a developmental disability. Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. represents parents throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties in divorce proceedings, taking special care to establish parenting and child support terms that are tailored to each family’s specific circumstances. You can schedule a consultation with a dedicated Long Island lawyer by calling 1.631.479.3839 or contacting us online

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