Co-parenting through divorce presents a multitude of challenges. When your child has special needs, those issues are only amplified. As a family law attorney and mom to a T1D child, I see the intersection of these two worlds resulting in conflict which negatively impacts the child and the parent’s ability to effectively co-parent.
Through my interview on the Juicebox Podcast and the information provided in this post, I hope to provide some general information and tools that you can use to improve your co-parenting relationship and protect your child’s best interests in navigating some common issues.
The two critical components of a parenting agreement relate to decision making and parenting time.
If you are contemplating divorce, or in the process of divorce, it is crucial to include terms to your parenting agreement to provide for a parenting schedule in your child’s best interests. If the other parent does not wake to alarms, has not managed care, and your child is not old enough to take on that responsibility, it may not be appropriate for your co-parent to have overnight parenting time until he or she can demonstrate that they are up to the task. Some potential protections and obstacles to consider:
Supervised parenting time with a trusted care provider. Is it appropriate to require supervision by a third party who understands your child’s care until your co-parent can demonstrate a working knowledge?
Step ups to allow for increased time when the parent reaches certain milestones/demonstrates ability to provide care. If you are MDI, do they know your child’s ISF and your insulin to carb ratio? If using a pump, do they know how to change the pump, what to look for to determine whether a site is bad? Perhaps you want to consider re-education with a CDE?
Physical distance and managing supplies. Are you transporting everything for each exchange or will each parent have sufficient supplies at their respective home?
What communication tools will you use? Are you comfortable texting your co-parent or do you want something more formal like a co-parenting communication app, to not only communicate but log issues, have a shared calendar, etc.
If you have a child with T1D, you absolutely should have an entire section of your parenting plan which addresses this specifically. It should be treated differently than other medical decisions because it is both an extraordinary health condition, but an every day one as well.
Unless what you are agreeing to is unconscionable or otherwise not in your child’s best interests, Judges typically will not interfere and do not have strong preferences what the parties agree to in their parenting plans. Parents can include language about their respective goals and expectations related to your child’s care. You may want to consider the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator to act as an intermediary in disputes relative to your child’s care to avoid going to Court.
Co-parenting with any special medical need is difficult. However, other conditions may have periods of flare ups and remission, good days and bad days. Diabetes is constant and parents of T1D children don’t get a break. A common theme where issues surface involves one parent who has been the point person primarily responsible for the child’s care, and in the event of a divorce, the other parent is ill equipped to properly manage the child’s care.
First, this is why it is so crucial to set up safeguards in your parenting plan. However, if you are past this point (you were divorced prior to diagnosis or your parenting plan is not specific enough), a few things to consider:
One of the hardest realities to face is that there is nothing you can do to make the other parent care. You can force changes in behavior through court intervention, you can seek that they have less time with your child, but ultimately, they have to understand that their lack of care has a negative impact on their child’s health.
Mandatory Diabetes education? If you are seeing consistent issues with your co-parent, this is potential relief that you can seek from the Court.
Consult with a lawyer. If your child’s parent is not taking their condition seriously, this may provide the Court with a basis to modify the parenting schedule. Documenting issues in writing is crucial. Educating the Court is also essential. Most Judges do not have an understanding of the complexities of diabetes. Your lawyer should be prepared to cite medical journals about long terms impacts of diabetes, importance of maintaining a low A1C, etc.
Child is at Parent 1’s house and his BG levels are high, he is coming back to Parent 2’s house and you see that he was consistently running high, not bolusing appropriately, etc. If your co-parent brushes off your concerns, the next time it happens, carefully document the issues and put them in writing. Child was only in range X% of the time while in your care, his average BG was YYY, and we need to get on the same page regarding his care until such time as he can independently manage it.
After you have continued to address these issues in writing, document them for your lawyer and consult with him or her to determine next steps in seeking to modify your Agreement.
If your co-parent is not taking your child’s health seriously, it is both infuriating and heartbreaking. Try to keep your emotions in check and address the issue factually. When you are involved in an acrimonious divorce, tensions are high and both parents are on edge when communicating with the other. If you are able to keep your tone balance and remove accusations in favor of facts, it will help you communicate more effectively to achieve better results for your child.
Disclaimer. Nothing in article should be construed as legal advice; consult your attorney in your jurisdiction for any questions about your case.
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