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Who makes the educational decisions for our disabled child?

Parenting a special needs child can be very difficult, but these challenges can increase exponentially when the parents are divorced. If you and your ex have trouble communicating without hostility, it can seem impossible to agree on how to handle your child's educational needs. However, with a little bit of patience and sometimes a little help from the courts, these issues can be resolved.

In 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act was put in place to help ensure that children with disabilities were able to get a quality education. It's important to understand that while IDEA is a federal law, each state makes its own laws and guidelines for how it will be implemented in the state's education system.

Divorced parents often face unique issue with their children such as who gets the legal authority to make educational decisions for the disabled child. It's not unusual for the parents to disagree on what's best for the child, and in this case, it's important to designate who gets the final say if an agreement cannot be reached. In many cases, the parents have equal rights to make the decisions, unless a court order says otherwise.

In situations where only one parent has legal custody, the custodial parent may have more influence over the education decisions unless the noncustodial parent decides to take the case before the family courts. Once this happens, the case proceeds into evidence where the parents' lawyers will be able to give their reasoning and any applicable documentation to the courts who will then make the final decision.

Source: LD OnLine, "Divorce: It Can Complicate Children's Special Education Issues," Carolyn Anderson and Beth-Ann Bloom, accessed Aug. 13, 2015

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