NOWRA, NSW – While Christmas Holidays are a joyous period, sadly it is also a time of increased conflict for many families.
Parents of children who have a disability are more likely to separate and divorce according to Melissa Vine, Principal Solicitor at MDV Family Lawyers.
“Studies show that the increased stress associated with caring for a child with additional needs, combined with inconsistent support services and added financial pressures over time are all factors in the increased divorce rate”, Melissa said.
In a 2009 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around 290,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 were reported as having a disability. 60% of these cases were classified as “severe”. In the same study, half the primary carers reported their physical and emotional wellbeing had changed, and over one third of those in a relationship reported their relationship had become strained.
“Parents often go through an emotional rollercoaster as they navigate the additional needs of their child. Our clients sometimes find that as their child grows, the level of available support changes too. This means they have to manage more and more, leaving less time for themselves and their partners”.
Melissa and her team participated in Noah’s Challenge in October this year, to support Noah’s Inclusion Services – a local support service who help kids with special needs and their parents.
In 2018, this fun-run fundraiser supported Noah’s Start Up Assessment Program that helps to assess, diagnose and support young children who may have difficulties in more than one area of development. With no Government funding available for the program, Melissa’s team participated with other businesses and members of the local community, rallying to help save this vital service by raising just over $1,000.
Noah's staff have expertise in assisting families who have a child with a disability and who may be navigating the difficulties and stress of separation and divorce.
“Planning for and managing your divorce correctly is critical when there are children involved and children with disabilities will need particular types of support. Children who have specific physical, cognitive and emotional needs due to a disability may need more support in how to manage with the changes that come with family separation’ says Alice Lans, CEO at Noah’s.
Shannon Lea, psychologist from Noah’s Inclusion Services says “In addition to the usual concerns that go along with divorce and child custody, there are unique considerations that must be accounted for when children with a disability are involved. Big changes are coming, and some may be difficult for children to accept. Determining a child's best interests is always a challenge, but with children with a disability certain care needs may make this aspect a little more challenging. Families should consult with their local early childhood intervention specialist on how to best support their unique child’s individual needs through this time of transition.”
Melissa says that when getting divorced, clients need to also consider whether the additional needs of the child will be indefinite. This helps to determine what level of care is required now and in the future, who will make decisions regarding the child and what financial support should be payable.
“Divorcing when you have a child with a disability can be quite complex. Getting the right advice helps reduce stress and leads to better outcomes for the child” she says.
MDV Family Lawyers is the largest law firm dedicated solely to family law in the Shoalhaven and Illawarra areas. With offices in both Nowra and Oak-Flats/Shellharbour, they help clients from Moruya to Wollongong and provide a personalised, professional and expert service. https://mdvfamilylawyers.com.au
Noah’s Inclusion Services offers flexible, evidence-based and family centred services to children and young people with special needs and support for their families. With their head office in Nowra and services provided from Wollongong to Ulladulla, Noah’s has a wide range of therapy, education and support services. Noah’s is an NDIS registered provider, specialising in services for children from birth to 18 years and has the largest holistic early childhood intervention team in the area.
If you would like to make a donation to Noah’s to continue vital services, please visit our website at www.noahs.org.au