Any child custody determination can be incredibly difficult for a parent, and it’s natural for any parent to want as much custody and parenting time as they can possibly secure from their family court determinations. However, parents of children with disabilities have a host of additional concerns in these situations, and any judge overseeing a custody dispute involving a disabled child must carefully weigh all relevant medical factors and other variables in making their final decision.

If you have a child with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities, the judge who oversees your custody order will need to evaluate all relevant facts regarding your child’s condition, and they will also carefully consider you and your co-parent’s respective abilities to handle your child’s unique needs.

Factors That Determine Child Custody in Tulsa

It can be incredibly disempowering for any parent to realize that the outcome of their child custody case rests entirely in the hands of a family court judge. However, state law requires a judge in a custody case to evaluate each parent’s overall fitness to handle their child’s needs. A few examples of these factors are:

  • Criminal history. If a parent has any type of criminal record that causes the judge concern as to whether the parent poses a danger to the child, this is very likely to influence the judge’s final decision. This is especially true if a parent has committed domestic violence or child abuse.
  • Medical status. A parent must be physically and mentally capable of handling their child’s basic everyday needs. However, when it comes to a child with a disability or special needs of any kind, a parent seeking custody must make an especially compelling case for their ability to meet their child’s unique needs.
  • Finances. Parents are required to financially support their children in equal measure. If one parent assumes more physical custody than the other, the court typically considers this to account for half of the total support the child requires. The other parent will likely owe child support payments each month to account for their share.

A judge will also want to hear from the child in the case if they are capable of conveying their preferences, but this can be difficult if a child has any type of special needs. The judge will want to review the child’s medical records carefully and may wish to hear from their primary care team. If the child has a psychological or cognitive impairment, this is likely to generate additional social and developmental complications. Physical disabilities can be very difficult and expensive to manage, and many children with such conditions require extensive physical therapy, specialized medical devices, and various types of ongoing care to manage their conditions.

Children with disabilities also tend to develop very strong attachments to their closest caregivers. While many disabled children receive care from both parents, it is common for one parent to act as the primary caregiver while the other works to support the family. In addition, many families with disabled children qualify for various forms of government assistance, and divorce may impact these benefits. When one parent has been a disabled child’s primary caregiver for most or all of their life, it is very unlikely for a judge to want to disrupt this relationship in making their custody determination.

Ultimately, no single strategy will work for every parent in a custody case, and any custody dispute involving a child with special needs will present additional emotional strain, more complex financial questions, and a greater need for experienced legal counsel. A Tulsa child custody attorney is the ideal resource to consult if you have a child with special needs and are concerned about the potential outcome of your impending custody dispute.


Q: How Much Does a Parent of a Disabled Child Receive in Child Support?

A: A child support obligation is calculated by assessing the monthly financial support the child requires for their specific needs and the general cost of living and handling basic expenses. This amount is then divided in half to determine each parent’s respective support obligation. Whichever parent assumes a greater share of custodial responsibility, and thus a greater financial obligation, will receive child support payments from the other. Your Tulsa divorce attorney can help you calculate an estimate of how much support you are likely to receive.

Q: How Long Does a Child Custody Determination Take?

A: The time required to resolve a custody dispute in Tulsa hinges on various details, such as the parents’ willingness to compromise and their child’s unique needs. When it comes to children with disabilities, these custody disputes can take longer than you may expect to resolve due to the inherent complexity of determining the breadth of the child’s needs. However, the judge has the final say on the matter, and your Tulsa child custody attorney can provide an estimate of your case’s likely timetable.

Q: What Do I Do If My Child’s Condition Changes in the Future?

A: The family court acknowledges that life can present unexpected challenges that can affect a custody order. If your child’s medical condition changes in a significant way, you must notify the court and request any necessary changes to your custody order. For example, if a child’s condition worsens and they require more regular visits to medical care facilities, this can impact the parents’ custody exchange schedule.

Q: Is It Worth Hiring an Attorney for a Custody Dispute in Tulsa?

A: It is always worth investing in legal counsel you can trust for any type of family court case, especially one as emotionally straining as a custody determination for your disabled child. Having legal representation, you can trust readily available to answer your questions and address your concerns as they arise throughout your case proceedings.

Parents of disabled children face unique concerns in family court, and making informed decisions during an emotionally stressful court case is difficult for any parent. Reach out to an experienced Tulsa family law attorney if you are bracing for a divorce or custody dispute and have concerns about your child’s disabilities.