Neurodiversity and Family Law

Thu 27th Jul 2023

Following on from the series of articles by Sonal Parekh on disabilities, hidden or not, and family law, she explores how neurodiversity can affect people who are going through divorce, separation or disputes about finances or the children.

What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiverse conditions include ADHD, Autism, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Tourette’s syndrome. These diagnostic labels are used to explain the diverse ways of thinking, learning, processing and behaving. As with the hidden disabilities discussed in our previous article, neurodiversity is not always visible, not widely known about and often misunderstood.

It is thought that up to 15% of the population are thought to be neurodiverse, with the remaining being neurotypical. According to ADHDaware.org.uk, 8% of people in the UK are thought to have ADHD, around 10% are thought to have dyslexia and 1% of the UK population is thought to have an autistic spectrum disorder.

How does being Neurodiverse affect you in family law disputes?

It is widely accepted that divorce or separation and the associated proceedings regarding finances and children is the most stressful event that can happen in someone’s life, and invariably there will be a lot of information which has to be understood and collated. Whether you are able to reach agreements amicably with your spouse, or if matters were to progress through the Courts, there is considerable amount of paperwork and legal complexities which will need to be worked through. For those affected by a neurodiversity this process can be especially overwhelming.

When should I tell my solicitor about my neurodiversity?

Only you know your neurodiversity. And only you know how you need to be supported, especially when navigating through the complex and emotional process of a divorce. It is important to be open about your neurodiversity and share your concerns and any anxieties with your solicitor earlier on in the process. The key to any neurodiversity, disability or difficulties of any sort is to be open with your solicitor so that your best case can be put forward. We will then be best placed to help you through this process if we are able to understand any conditions, diversities or disabilities that affect you now and in the longer term.

Managing neurodiversity and family breakdown

When going through the divorce process, it may be that financial disclosures forms, such as the Form E will need to be completed. These forms are lengthy and can be difficult to understand generally, if you are in a position whereby you have Dyslexia for example, these forms can present a number of challenges. Informing your solicitor of your neurodiversity will benefit you, as your solicitor will be able to go through these forms with you and, where necessary make a plan with you as to how you would like to tackle the completion of such forms, for example for taking each section step-by-step and help you understand the information in a way that you are able to process, this may be through diagrams, charts or colour coded plans. More time can also be allocated to avoid last minute rushes and feeling additional stress.

Similarly, if you have ADD/ADHD, it can be challenging to manage deadlines. Through your solicitor’s support you can be guided through the challenges of multi-tasking. Your solicitor will be able to help you manage these deadlines with regular “check ins” or reminders.

Neurodiversity and children matters

If, for example, a parent is neurodiverse, and this was not identified and made known, their perceived behaviour and attitude within say, Children Act proceedings could lead to the wrong conclusions being drawn by professionals involved. Neurodiversity can present as finding it difficult to accept criticism which has to be processed first. Such behaviour can give the impression that, in this example, the parent is not taking on board the advice of the professionals.

There are also courses which parents can take to help them work with neurodiversity, such as BeyondAutism and Positive Parenting Programmes to help understand a neurodiverse child.

For more information or you would like to speak with one of our expert family law solicitors, contact SA Law on 01727 789000. 

Contact Sonal Parekh

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