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Divorcing a spouse with autism requires special considerations

On Behalf of | May 18, 2021 | Divorce

When you and your spouse first got together, their quirky ways were endearing. They were frank with you and let you know early in the relationship that they were on the autism spectrum.

As you have come to learn, being married to a high-functioning spouse with an autism diagnosis can be challenging. While their diagnosis is certainly not the main reason for the divorce, it will definitely factor into your approach to the process — and beyond — as you uncouple yourselves and learn how to co-parent effectively.

What problems you may face

When you separate, your autistic ex-spouse may have extreme difficulties respecting the new boundaries they must accept. At worst, this can manifest as a type of benign stalking, where the autistic partner remains consumed with their former spouse’s activities and lifestyle post-separation or divorce.

This can be exacerbated when there are minor children involved. The non-neurotypical spouse may not be able to engage in the type of communication and co-parenting that the neurotypical spouse has every right to expect going forward. 

Don’t set yourselves up to fail

When divorcing and co-parenting with someone on the spectrum, it is not fair to expect them to suddenly develop the type of skills and abilities that lead to nonconfrontational co-parenting, like:

  • Flexibility
  • Dependability
  • Appropriate responsiveness to changing conditions
  • Schedule management

If your spouse agrees, it may be appropriate to arrange for their doctor or counselor to participate in some co-parenting negotiations so that the spouse on the spectrum feels supported and understood.

Bring your attorney up to speed

Make sure that your family law attorney is aware of your spouse’s diagnosis. Everyone involved in the negotiations should be willing to exhibit patience and compassion to allow the non-neurotypical spouse time to come to terms with the transition and learn to manage their “new normal.”