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Keywords:

  • acute medical conditions;
  • chronic developmental disorders;
  • psychological and behavioral disorders;
  • IPP (Individualized Parenting Plan)

This article presents a conceptual framework for describing cases involving children with special needs that are increasingly being seen in family court. Three categories that represent the most common of such cases include (1) acute, life-threatening medical conditions; (2) chronic developmental disorders; and (3) psychological and behavioral syndromes. After detailing the nature of the disabilities in each category, perspectives from the bench are offered with specific recommendations and general strategies for effective case management. This is followed by a proposal of an innovative conceptual model—the Individualized Parenting Plan (IPP)—that organizes and integrates nine domains essential for a comprehensive parenting plan for special needs children. The article concludes with a list of sixteen strategic guidelines for servicing the families of these special needs children, in their best interests.