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The Sad Intersection of Divorce and Special Education

Posted Jul 07 2008 7:15pm
I just learned that it is estimated that divorce among parents of children with severe disabilities is above 85%. This makes me very sad.


I suppose that it is not surprising that the divorce rate is so high. The general rate of divorce for marriages in the United States is about 50%. If you add to that the extreme stress and expense of having a child with a severe disability, it stands to reason that the rate of divorce would be much higher.
Here are a couple of articles that were given to me by a special education professor whom I just met at the conference of the Council for Exceptional Children in Boston last week. Please let me know if you have additional information on this topic:
In addition to the obvious societal concerns, there are legal issues resulting from this stunning fact. The entire rationale of the procedural safeguards component of the IDEA is that parents will assert the rights of a child with a disability. Thus, for example, when a due process complaint is filed, the hearing officer may need to ensure that the parent with the right to make educational decisions for the child is the one who filed. At earlier stages, school districts must ensure that they try to involve both parents in the process but turn to the one with authority at times of decision. The definition of "parent" has been expanded by IDEA'04. IDEA Section 602 (23); 34 CFR Section 300.30. Nonetheless, caution is advised.
The unfortunate intersection of family law and special education law may be more complicated than I had realized.
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