Expert Witnesses for Children with Special Needs
By Matthew Katsionis, Senior Family Lawyer, Vancouver
At Crossroads Law, we have represented many families who have children with special needs. Parents who are separated often encounter disputes about parenting time and child support. These disputes can be even more intense when there is a child with special needs involved.
When parents are unable to resolve their differences and come up with a parenting plan themselves, expert evidence is often relied upon. In cases involving a child with special needs, it is important to understand what types of expert evidence should be presented as it is crucial in these types of cases.
Foundationally, judges in family law cases usually understand that children with special needs, especially those who are not neurotypical, require specialized care plans and parenting schedules. Often, these children need a firm, consistent parenting schedule which establishes a set routine, as these routines provide a feeling of safety and security for the child. This however can create a conflict between separated parents.
Upon separation, the parent with whom the child is more attached or who has historically been the primary caregiver may be the one favoured by the child. Having the primary caregiver continue in this capacity may also support the mental health of the child after separation. This can create a status quo parenting schedule at the outset.
But what if you are the parent seeking more parenting time of a special needs child? If you are the parent who was less involved or less favoured by the child, regardless of reason, it is not a straightforward matter to increase parenting time. Oftentimes, when there is a dispute about parenting time, many parents will inquire about section 211 report. These reports are bilateral parenting assessments in which a psychologist assesses the parents and the child to recommend a parenting schedule. However, for special needs children a s. 211 is neither necessary nor the best option to pursue and in some cases, it is wholly unnecessary.
Special needs children, especially those who are not neurotypical (mental, behavioural and social challenges such as a child with autism spectrum disorder) will most likely have been diagnosed, have an attending physician, an attending psychologist and most likely attending therapists or counselors. These individuals are the ones the court will rely upon when determining parenting time as well as what Section 7 child support expenses are necessary for the child. Therefore, it is crucial to obtain reports from the various medical professionals in your child’s life. In our experience, these medical professionals are more than happy to assist a child where and when they can, even in the midst of family law litigation.
If you are struggling with creating a parenting plan after separation for a special needs child, the family lawyers at Crossroads Law have extensive experience in these types of cases in mediation, arbitration and court. We also provide family law mediators who have backgrounds in the area of social work and child development.
Contact us now for your free consultation.