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In the past year, I have conducted a number of court appointed, neutral forensic evaluations in contested custody matters involving a special needs child. As we all know, managing the divorce and child custody process is difficult enough for families. The real test of the parent’s ability to coparent, however, is truly called into question when their child has “special needs.” The National Institute of Mental Health website reports “just over 20 percent (or one in five) children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder.”

Definitions of children with special needs may include having one of the following:

1. Children with an identified disability, health, or mental health conditions requiring early intervention, special education services, other specialized services and supports; or

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