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Autism and separation

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  • Autism and separation

    My ex has managed to stonewall and delay and delay, switching lawyers repeatedly, not communicating, ignoring letters from lawyers for months. I have a court application in progress, however today I was slapped with the news that she has had our son diagnosed with classical autism.

    At this point we don't have any agreement for anything except interim child support and EOW access. I felt (and was advised by this forum) that given the lack of communication and resistance to good offers I would do well to go to court.

    But now I'm put in the position of litigating against a single mom who has an autistic kid. She may get a lot more sympathy from the courts now.

    Does anyone have insight into how this may affect the proceedings?

    My main concern is her refusal to find work for the last year of separation, insisting I pay her spousal support instead. I've done so for now... but the marriage was only 6 years it shouldn't continue for much longer given her education and work experience.

  • #2
    Did she tell you it was autism without any backup proof, or did you hear it from a doctor? How does the child behave with you; do you have any reason to suspect autism, or do you think it is a tactic?

    If it is autism, I imagine that the more access you have the better, for the child to see you as a stable part of his life, someone familiar and loving, and not a stranger only around a few hours at a time. I don't have any personal experience with autism though, so do some research. Do lots of research.

    You are not up against a single mom with an autistic kid. You are a dad of an autistic kid fighting for what is best for a child.


    • #3
      She has been pushing for a diagnosis since we separated but refused to share any information regarding his medical appointments or treatments. Finally in the last two weeks she gave my number to the child psychologist who gave me the news, I guess she finally got an answer she was happy with.

      I found the diagnosis too extreme, though it was likely he would be diagnosed somewhere in the autism spectrum such as PDD or perhaps just ADHD. He exhibits some of the behaviours, but his biggest problem is rejection of direction from anyone. He doesn't have difficulty with communication and is smart in a lot of areas but definitely has some social and behaviour issues.

      So while there is some truth, it was likely a tactic as well, to delay agreeing on anything until she had a diagnosis she could use to fight for more money so she would never have to work again.

      If Ontario law hands out cash like candy to Mom's and makes Dad's put their necks in a noose, seems like my ex has found a goldmine and handed me the rope.

      I know it seems cold to be concerned with how this could affect me financially and legally more than other concerns, but I'm just a couple hundred dollars a month away from being homeless already while my ex is doing just dandy. And now she will get a huge boost in income and tax credits from the government for her "disabled" child. The psychologist already showed me the forms she will submit for my ex to collect her cash bonus.

      As far as I know, my son is still scheduled to start junior kindergarten in a few months. She won't tell me. In my mind, my ex should return to work at the same time and my interim spousal support should cease; she is more than capable of supporting herself. But now?


      • #4
        I have experience with Autism, particularly PDD-NOS. It appears your ex is being tactical with you and delaying any resolution until your son's formal diagnosis arrives. I can't offer an opinion on your situation for lack of details ( the devil is in the details). I would ask what is your ex's work qualification? I sense a strong theme with your ex regarding money brewing here.

        A few points about the diagnosis. Quit often the child psychiatrist ( Only a medical psychiatrist can offer the diagnosis) will diagnose classic or severe Autism when the less severe form of Autism are clinically present to ensure the child has a fighting chance of getting therapy. Have you done your own CARS scale survey?

        You have a great deal starting to form at this time, try and break things down into smaller tasks. Can you post more detail pertains to your situation? The primary care giver is going to receive substantial government financial assistance in your case. Try and move towards an equal shared parenting regime. What are you stating in your application?


        • #5
          The diagnosis was done at CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) at the Ottawa Children's Treatment Centre. I think you're right about dressing up the diagnosis as much as possible in order to try and secure the maximum amount of help for him both in and outside of the school system. It's a very double edged sword to have your child labelled with such a tragic condition, yet on the flip side, it entitles you to get a lot more help in working with him. Or more likely it entitles her to a lot more help and support since I'm the NCP.

          Yes I completed my own survey(s) and submitted them though they were not scored as part of this diagnosis. According to the doctor eyeballing my surveys, I scored him less severely on a number of areas although reasonably consistent with my ex.

          My ex has two university degrees as a teacher. She worked as both a supply teacher and in the supplemental learning industry (ie learning centres) for more than 5 years. She has maintained her union membership and Ontario College of Teachers registration for the years she wasn't working. Our plan when we were married was that she would stay home until he went to school because she didn't want to pay someone else most of a salary to raise her child when she could do it herself. Additionally, she suffers from clinical depression and wasn't happy working and even sought psychiatric assistance during pregnancy so she could take maternity leave early.

          I have to conclude that my ex really is all about money as I even offered her sole custody and a modest settlement but she refused, preferring to go after more money even though she wanted sole custody as well. As I've said, ex has stopped communicating or responding to offers to settle for more than 4 months. She was essentially asking for 70% of the money from the sale of our matrimonial home, unlimited spousal support for the rest of her life (for a 6 year marriage??? No way), table amount of child support, and a few silly items like occupation rent (sure right, I was paying her mortgage she walked away from for her).

          In my court application, I am asking for joint custody, visitation (EOW + evening per week), one year of spousal, CS, access to son's medical information, shared transportation for access and costs since she has not cooperated with negotiations and rejects mediation. I haven't had the intention to seek shared custody, and my ex is such a control freak she isn't even willing to consider joint custody. She wants total control of him and the ability to make me bankroll everything for her it seems.


          • #6
            Never back down on joint custody of your child.

            When he grows up, he needs somebody honest and responsible in his life. Just going by what you say, that person is you.


            • #7
              Originally posted by winterwolf7 View Post
              My ex has managed to stonewall and delay and delay, switching lawyers repeatedly, not communicating, ignoring letters from lawyers for months. I have a court application in progress, however today I was slapped with the news that she has had our son diagnosed with classical autism.
              "Classic Autism" which I think you are referring to is the most severe form of autism on the spectrum. People with classic autism have problems talking and relating to people. They can be hypersensitive to their environment. Certain sounds, colours and textures can upset them. They compulsively cling to rituals, such as eating the same foods or watching the same TV show every day at the same time. Changes in routine can upset them.

              There has to be a significant amount of clinical documentation to any diagnosis (even a "Not Otherwise Specified") on the spectrum.

              Now there are a few tools used to place a child on the spectrum. Most noteably the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) which is a parental interview. The Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) which the clinician observes the child. Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) which is also a clinical observation of the child.

              Depending on your custody (not access) arrangement any medical diagnosis of your child would require your input. (Do you have joint custody?)

              I would check and make sure that the diagnosis is based on sound clinical practices. As you have not provided any insight into the diagnosis and tools used to reach the assumed "classic autism" diagnosis I can only assume it was done on ADI-R which a parent can lie through easily if they research the questions and answers.

              In separation and divorce no clinician should be diagnosing a child with a major disorder without input from both parents. Especially if the clinician providing the diagnosis only relied upon ADR-I for the diagnosis.

              If you have no clinical documentation to support your claim and the other parent is not providing it request it immediately and have your solicitor copy the clinician (if known to you).

              I would be highly suspicious given the lack of communications that a diagnosis even exists. If one does not exist and you have written correspondence where the other parent is making claims of a medical condition as severe as you are describing it may be evidence of a more dangerous pattern of neglect and/or abuse and/or maltreatment.

              Get the clinical documentation supporting the diagnosis to confirm. If none can be obtained I would seek an immediate motion to obtain access to it.

              As a parent with EOW access you have every right to know about your child's medical condition.

              Originally posted by winterwolf7 View Post
              But now I'm put in the position of litigating against a single mom who has an autistic kid. She may get a lot more sympathy from the courts now.
              A child needs both parents. A child with a disability needs both parents even more. Not just for the emotional relationship but, raising a child with a disability is hard in an intact marriage and even harder in one that is separate and apart.

              Your position is that you are available to support your child's needs both emotionally and for their disability. (If one does really exist.) Courts recognize that going it alone is difficult and going it alone with a disabled child is even more difficult.

              Originally posted by winterwolf7 View Post
              Does anyone have insight into how this may affect the proceedings?
              With regards to your child's "best interests" it is a matter of how you argue your position and evidence. You are challenged with the fact you agreed to be an EOW parent before the court. I am not sure what your reasons for doing so was but, more than your child's potential disability I see this as a major challenge to your argument in court.

              Originally posted by winterwolf7 View Post
              My main concern is her refusal to find work for the last year of separation, insisting I pay her spousal support instead. I've done so for now... but the marriage was only 6 years it shouldn't continue for much longer given her education and work experience.
              Your main concern should be the well being of your child. Sorry if this comes out a bit harsh. If you feel that the other parent is using this supposed diagnosis as a tactic and one does not exist it is a very concerning matter to raise before the court.

              Every child has a right to know they are healthy. If there is no diagnosis and there is no supporting clinical diagnosis and the other parent is telling your child they are sick this is very *SICK* behaviour for a parent to be doing.



              After reading my opinion still stands. You have provided input into the clinical process but, the weighting really needs to be evaluated. As a tactic this really isn't a good one in my opinion. If your son has been diagnosed according to the clinical guide lines there are some emerging changes to Autism in DSM-V that you need to be aware of. They are revamping the whole spectrum.

              Furthermore, a lot of weight is often put on parental input on a diagnosis. If there is too much weight put on the other parent's input the diagnosis as you have pointed out may in fact be wrong. I would raise this concern you have expressed and ask for the clinical hours spent observing your child and how the clinical observations were used to reach the diagnosis.

              Now, it is rare for a clinician to skew a diagnosis to help a family obtain funding. This would constitute malpractice and constitute fraud. It is highly unlikely that a clinician would do this so I would be more cautious that the way they arrived at the diagnosis was driven by the other parent's "professional opinion". The argument being that the other parent has education in the area and may be miss representing your child's condition for monitory gain. This would be representative of malingering generally. (Falsifying a medical condition for financial gain which you are suggesting.)

              As the diagnosis opens up government funding it is hard to say what additional costs your child's needs will really be. If there are additional medical needs they would be covered under S7 expenses more than likely and require receipts from the other parent.

              There is an opportunity for the other parent to argue against increased access time and not being able to work but, the counter argument (if you can provide the time) is that you are a willing and able parent and are available to support your child.

              Now be warned... If you child does indeed have the diagnosed condition and it is clinically sound it is best to accept the diagnosis and work towards supporting your child's needs versus attempting to argue against the diagnosis. Request the supporting report for the diagnosis and have a independent third party review it and all the supporting clinical documentation to get a clear understanding on the validity of the diagnosis.
              Last edited by Tayken; 06-02-2011, 12:57 AM. Reason: Updated Information from original poster.


              • #8
                The diagnosis was such because though my son is capable of answering the questions and performing reasonably well on the standardized testing, he resists cooperating and loses interest in the dozens of questions long before they are done. So they diagnosed him in the classical autism range since he refused to complete most of the test, with the advice that when he is more cooperative in a year or two, they will redo the testing and he should do much better. The full report outlining the diagnosis and recommendations will be available in about a month.

                I don't think disputing the diagnosis will be helpful to anyone. He obviously needs help. But one of the main recommendations of the doctor was that most importantly he needs access to structured programming, not another year sitting at home with Mommy and watching too much TV while playing with his cars.

                I am already paying the maximum amount of total support, leaving me with less than 27% of my total income between taxes, deductions, spousal and child support. So at this point every dollar I am paying in spousal is a dollar that I don't have available to help with incoming CS expenses related to his future treatment.

                I guess my main concern is being forced to pay spousal well beyond the expected range for a short 6 year marriage with one child. In my present financial state I do not have the funds to offer my son a proper home when he is visiting and that's not fair to him or me. There is not enough money for everyone to have a home without my ex going to work. Even part-time would be a huge help.


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