Divorce is never easy. It is not an easy decision for the adults involved, and certainly cannot be easy when there are children in the family. But when parents of a child with special needs in Texas divorce, there are even more complications, such as custody of the special needs child.

If you are getting divorced and have a special needs child, talk to a Dallas child custody lawyer who understands the impact that having a special needs child can have on issues like custody (“conservatorship” in Texas).

What factors does the Court consider when determining conservatorship of a special needs child?

There is no doubt that the Court will want to act according to the “best interests of the child” in determining conservatorship and other arrangements. However, the living and custody arrangements that will be in the child’s best interests are not always apparent so the Court must consider many factors when deciding conservatorship. Still, there are more specific factors to consider when a child has special needs. These factors include (but are not limited to):

  • What the child’s special needs are and how they affect his overall development. Are these emotional or mental impairments, physical disabilities, or some combination thereof?
  • Is there any evidence of physical or mental abuse or harm by either parent?
  • Is there some evidence that educational opportunities with one parent are superior in some measurable way to those offered at the other?
  • Are there differing opinions on the best therapies and treatments available for the child? What are the standard practices given the child’s diagnosis and condition?
  • Are both parents willing and able to agree to and implement the recommended therapies and treatments?
  • What are the relationships like between the parents and the child? Does one parent seem to have a better understanding of the child’s needs and is either parent unwilling to accept their child’s differences?
  • What is the best arrangement for the child in terms of consistency not only in care but in discipline, routine, and support? Does the child struggle with transitions and will mid-week or short transition cycles add to their struggles?
  • Does one parent have more availability than the other for meeting the child’s needs?
  • What about the impact on any siblings who may/may not also have special needs?


In evaluating these matters, the Court will require the assistance of expert witnesses provided by the parties and will likely rely on the testimony of the parties as well. The Court will consider the child’s desires, if possible. At the end of the day, it is the child’s needs that must be met first and the Court will have to determine what is best for him.

How can I get help? 

Divorce is a tumultuous time in anyone’s life, and especially so for parents of a child with special needs. The Texas Divorce Lawyer strives to make it less so; contact Julie Johnson at 214-265-7630 for a consultation.