How to find a divorce lawyer in Cape Town, South Africa

Mental handicapped children & divorce

I very often get clients who consult me in connection with a divorce matter, and advise that their child suffers from some kind of disorder or mental handicap. This could be autism, cerebral palsy, ADHD, or Down’s syndrome for example.

A child with a disorder/handicap is obviously more difficult to look after, and the expenses are a lot higher. Very often a full time nurse/nanny is required to be employed to look after such a child. I recently had a case where the parties had been married for over twenty years. Their daughter was 17 years old and suffered from Autism. My client explained that it had been extremely difficult looking after the minor child during the marriage, as she did not function like a normal child would. My client was not even able to take the child to a shopping centre. The disorder of the child according to my client had also severely affected her husband. He abused alcohol and marijuana on a daily basis.

The abovementioned case is interesting in the sense that the marriage had lasted so long even though the parties had to raise a child with a disorder. I have experienced far more cases where the parties seeking to be divorced have a child under the age of six who suffers from a disorder. They argue a lot more than other couples and are less satisfied in their relationship. It is important for these parents to understand that it is never the child’s fault that the marriage broke down.

A recent study has shown that the parents of a child who suffers from ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) were almost twice as likely to divorce before the child turned eight. This study looked at 286 couples who have a child with ADHD and 206 with children who don’t have this condition. It is quite normal for couples who have a child with ADHD to suffer from depression, and substance abuse.

It is honestly sad that many more marriages tend to end in this way when a child suffers from a disorder than a marriage with “normal” children. The responsibility on a parent to look after a child with a disorder is very often a lifelong responsibility. In normal instances the duty of the parent to support the child would end at age 18 or once the child becomes self-supporting. However a child with a mental handicap very often cannot fend for him/herself after the age of 18.

This article was written by Cape Town divorce attorney, Peter Baker

Related Articles

Babies for band-aid

An unborn child when divorcing

Divorce & the adopted child

Divorce when the children & spouse are overseas

When your child and ex move overseas

Rights to see your grandchildren after divorce

Joint decisions

Kidnapping your child

Divorce, alcohol & drugs

When a child wont see his father


married overseas annulmentreasons for divorce