Divorce and Children with Disabilities

Divorce and children with disabilities happens too often. Parents of a disabled child have a higher divorce rate. This is sad.

As you can imagine, disabled children suffer more from a divorce than healthy children. It is very sad that a couple breaks up due to having a handicapped child. Married couples can take action to avoid breaking-up because of a disabled child.

Many of us have friends, family or peolple within their social environment that have divorced due to the strain a disabled child puts on their family life. The husband or the wife leaves because they feel they are not able to continue to support the disabled child the way they do.


Families with one or more disabled children have higher than average divorce rates. For children with autism, some researchers report divorce rates of 85%.

Legal Consequences

Legal consequences for Divorce and Children with Disabilities can be found on Disabled Children and Divorce.

Divorce and Children with Disabilities: a Real Life Story

Here is a real life story of a divorced couple with one healthy boy and with a heavily mentally and physically disabled boy. The husband was working full time and the wife part time.

She was taking care of the disabled child most of the time. After the age of 6, the disabled boy was placed in a home for mentally handicapped children. She visited her son a few times a week, her husband, being busy with his work, visited his son only once a week in the weekend. Sometimes he skipped a week. Because she spent much more time with the disabled child, she took the most important decisions. From her point of view, her husband walked away from his responsibility.

From the perspective of the husband, the mother kept him outside. He thought she wanted to make the decisions alone. When the disabled boy reached the age of 11, he left. His reason for the divorce was that he could not cope with his disabled child. They filed for divorce and after the divorce he did not visit his disabled child again.

Tips for divorce and children with disabilites

There are a few things to bare in mind:

  • Your disabled child can get free special education and additional services. To qualify, a child evaluation must be done by the school. Read more in Child Evaluation

  • a daily routine is even more important for the disabled children
  • a fixed visitation schedule should be agreed and respected by both parents
  • apart from deciding on legal and physical custody, a guardian must be appointed (see explanation below).
  • adult disabled children of divorce often need additional financial help. For suggestions about organizing the financial situation for your disabled child: http://www.children-and-divorce.com/disabled-children-and-divorce.html


In cases of divorce and children with disabilities, it might be necessary to appoint a guardian before the children reach the age of eighteen. Both normal and disabled children become responsible for their own decisions and actions once they are 18. The law does not make any distinction. The appointed guardian will take the (most) important medical and / or financial decisions for the disabled child.

Strain on the marriage

Divorce and children with disabilities argues for making it a priority of parents of handicapped children to keep their marriage in tact, whatever it takes. Parents of disabled children often dedicate all their time to the well being of their children, especially to the handicapped. They feel guilty when they spend time on each other and on their marriage.

Protect your marriage.

To protect their marriage, parents of disabled children should dedicate time to each other, at least 20 minutes a day. If the relationship deteriorates, they can take action to improve it. For instance: communicate the mutual concerns openly and find solutions together or go into a marriage counseling program.

Divorce and Children with Disabilities is sad. Parents should avoid divorcing because of their disabled children. The children deserve better. Parents can take action to avoid a divorce. Disabled children cannot.

Will your life and the life of your disabled child be better after your divorce?

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