Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

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Do parents of special-needs children have higher divorce rate?

Many studies have pointed to higher divorce rates in families that contain special-needs children. These findings say that the stresses of raising a special-needs child in comparison to children without special needs puts unprecedented stress on a marriage. This in turn, causes couples of special-needs children to divorce more frequently. But are these findings a situation of cause-and-effect or are the findings mistaking coincidental events?

While these studies, undoubtedly, have a point that raising a special-needs child has its stressors and challenges, a new study was released that could challenge the traditional view on this issue. The Kennedy Krueger Institute, which studies autism and related disorders, found that 64 percent of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) belong to a family with two married biological or adoptive parents, compared with 65 percent of children who do not have an ASD. Essentially, the rate of divorce was pretty much identical in parents who did or did not have a child with autism or a related disorder.

Keep in mind, divorce rates have been on the rise both in Massachusetts and on a national scale. This means that an increase in the rate of divorce in parents without special-needs children could have also bridged the gap. Children with special needs require the love and care of both parents whether or not they are living together or are separated. Divorce does not have to negatively impact a parent's relationship with their special-needs child.

Because autism does not cover the entire spectrum of special needs disorders, the research is not a complete study on special-needs children and divorce. However, it is interesting evidence to say the least. Statistics do not always tell the whole story when it comes to family law and divorce.

Source:, "80 Percent Autism Divorce Rate Debunked in First-Of-Its Kind Scientific Study," Accessed August 8, 2016

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