Divorce and SEN children: our new focus for 2023

Back in 2021 we wrote two articles on Divorce and Children with Special Needs. Little did we know how influential they would be.

Parents of SEN/SEND children know all too well that having a child with special needs can place additional strain on any relationship. If that relationship fractures and parents decide to separate, it can create complex issues around child arrangements, financial settlement and the day-to-day logistics of care.


A child-focussed approach for SEN children

From the flood of emails we received after publishing our articles, it became clear that separating parents struggled to find empathetic family lawyers who had the experience and expertise to help them and their children. This is a real issue, as divorce rates are higher amongst those parents with autistic children.

At LGFL, we have always worked towards a child-focused outcome that prioritises the child’s emotional and financial stability. Our combined expertise as both divorce and family lawyers enabled us to help multiple families with SEN children both in local courts and across England and Wales, including a recent case in Newcastle.

SEN children: the stats

In the UK, the number of children in school with special educational needs in 2022 increased to almost 1.5million, up by 77,000 from 2021. That represents 16.5% of all school age pupils.

The awareness of recognition and understanding of children’s additional needs has also grown, encompassing:

  • Special educational needs
  • Learning disabilities
  • Social and communication disorders

In the year up to March 2022, the number of people with an open referral for suspect ASD was just over 103,000, an increase of 39% on the same period to end of March 2021.

A unique partnership

To further help families with SEND children experiencing divorce, we are collaborating with J. Andrew Grime, a specialist barrister in child and care law at Pump Court Chambers.

Working with Andrew has already enhanced our knowledge and understanding of SEND specific procedures, including:

  • Education Health and Care Needs Assessments (EHCN)
  • CAMHS referrals
  • Psychological reports

Andrew has also given us in-depth specialist training in specific case child law including the use of expert witnesses.

Andrew will be our “go to” barrister for cases involving SEN children in 2023, enabling us to form a dynamic, informed and effective team to help parents of SEND children - and the children themselves.

As Andrew says:

“Parental separation can change a child’s living and care situation, but it can also have a real effect on their mental health. As family lawyers we need to be proactive, vigilant, and inquisitive and alert to signs of change.”

Listen to Andrew in conversation with Rita in a new series of videos “Divorce and the SEN child”. View anytime at our LGFL YouTube channel.

Or read our previous articles on SEN


Watch this space

Over the next few months, we’ll be writing about the concerns, issues and unique requirements of separating parents with SEN children. We’ll be talking with autism specialists and charities to increase our understanding, and sharing these as podcasts.

We’ll also be learning from real families about the daily challenges they face, to give us a more holistic understanding of SEND issues in divorce, including finances, care logistics, and the diversity of needs and requirements for children across the autism spectrum, both diagnosed and suspected. This will in turn will help us help more families separate and divorce with less stress, less worry and keeping the needs of their children as our primary focus.


Talk to us

The prospect of divorce can be both daunting and, to be frank, scary. At LGFL, we offer a 1 hour reduced fee consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and concerns. Many clients find that having 60 minutes to talk to one of our Directors gives them a wealth of information, understanding and confidence to proceed in the best way for them and their children.

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