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Steven A. Greenburg, Education Law
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How divorce could impact your child's IEP

It's back-to-school time across the nation, which means new Individual Education Programs for students with special needs. As some of our more frequent readers may remember from our post on the subject at the beginning of this month, coming up with the best IEP for a child usually requires the help of administrators, teachers and parents. But in cases of divorce, this may be far more difficult than you think.

For a vast majority of divorced couples, the separation process was acrimonious and riddle with contention. The heightened emotions felt during the divorce process can sometimes linger for months or even years after a divorce. But if these contentious feelings cross over into the realm of school, it can cause problems, especially for children with special needs.

The biggest problem facing a child with special needs is if the separated parents can't come to a consensus on what should be included in the child's IEP. While one parent may have a specific set of benchmarks or short-term goals they want their child to meet in the ongoing school year, the other parent may have an entirely different set of goals. If tensions are still lingering from the divorce, this could impede discussions, making it difficult to come to a single conclusion about the child's IEP.

For parents, it's important to recognize when their emotions about their divorce is beginning to impact their child's educational success and to curb these emotions for the sake of the child's best interest. But teachers and school administrators can help too, acting as sort of a mediator for parents who are not on the same page. By doing this, all parties can ensure the development of an effective IEP that will help the child succeed through the school year.

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