How high is the divorce rate among autism parents?

The notion that divorce is “ever-increasing” is a “great myth” and also “plain wrong,” Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, assistant professors of business and public policy at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, write in an op-ed in the September 29th New York Times. Responding to the release last week of new statistics on divorce and to the New York Times itself reporting that “the latest numbers suggest an uptick in the divorce rate among people married in the most recent 20 years covered in the report, 1975-1994,” Stevenson and Wolfers argue that the divorce rate has been decreasing at a steady rate over the past quarter-century:

[The divorce rate] is now at its lowest level since 1970. While marriage rates are also declining, those marriages that do occur are increasingly more stable. For instance, marriages that began in the 1990s were more likely to celebrate a 10th anniversary than those that started in the 1980s, which, in turn, were also more likely to last than marriages that began back in the 1970s.

They also point out that a count of divorce certificates shows “the divorce rate as having peaked at 22.8 divorces per 1,000 married couples in 1979 and to have fallen by 2005 to 16.7.”

Stevenson and Wolfers speak out strongly about a constantly rising increase in the divorce rate as a myth and this led me to consider the figure of 80% that is regularly cited as the divorce rate in families with an autistic child. While I have often seen the figure of 80-85% referred to, I have not found a good source for this figure. That this is a topic of more than a little concern was apparent from the response to a post I wrote entitled Divorce a common side effect of autism?. The post clearly touched a nerve, as did Shelley Hendrix Reynolds’ recent article on the effects of her divorce on her autistic son .

Further, the National Autism Association (NAA) has launched what it refers to as the “first national program to combat divorce rates in autism community; it hopes to “confirm or update that percentage [of 80%] before referencing it in its program materials.” And, the “toll” that the “stress” of raising an autistic child can take on a marriage has more recently been in the news due to Jenny McCarthy who said during her Oprah appearance on September 18th:

Soon after Evan’s diagnosis, Jenny says the stress of raising a child with autism began to take a toll on her marriage. An autism advocacy organization reports that the divorce rate within the autism community is staggering. According to its research, 80 percent of all marriages end.

“I believe it, because I lived it,” she says. “I felt very alone in my marriage.”

Jenny says her husband dealt with his pain by staying away, even when Evan was in the hospital. “He never sat down and said, ‘What did you find out on Google?’” she says. “There was never that connection of wanting to know and being there.”

When Jenny’s marriage ended, she says she felt sad…and scared. “After the divorce, even though it felt good and the right thing to do, I felt, as I’m sure many mothers with children who have autism feel, ‘Who in the heck is going to love me with my child who has autism?’” she says. “I don’t care how big your boobs are or blonde your hair is—you’re going to feel that way.”

Leaving aside the attributes that McCarthy seems to equate with attracting the opposite sex (though I will note I would not, by the qualifications she mentions, get anywhere, not that I need or wish to; I’m Chinese American on both sides and nary a blonde hair to speak of), she does seem to be pinpoint autism as the reason for her marriage ending, and highlights what seems to be her ex-husband’s lack of interest.

Citing autism as the reason for a marriage failing can be seen as yet another reason for saying why autism is so awful. Taking care of Charlie is a privilege but it is not always easy. Childcare arrangements are a constant juggling act for Jim and me and we tend always to think of Charlie’s needs first, and of each other’s after that. We both agree that it should be this way. Jim and I would much prefer living closer to New York City due to our jobs but Charlie’s education comes first. We left the house that we planned to live in for 30 years in order that Charlie could have the right school placement. (And until this September we were living with my in-laws, which was very, if not too, interesting at times.) Jim and I have made many of our choices based on “what Charlie needs” rather than on what would be best for the two of us and I do hope that, ultimately this will be best for the three of us.

Stevenson and Wolfers suggest some reasons for why the “myth” of “ever-increasing divorce” persists.

Why has the great divorce myth persisted so powerfully? Reporting on our families is a lot like reporting on the economy: statistical tales of woe provide the foundation for reform proposals. The only difference is that conservatives use these data to make the case for greater government intervention in the marriage market, while liberals use them to promote deregulation of marriage.

But a useful family policy should instead be based on facts. The facts are that divorce is down, and today’s marriages are more stable than they have been in decades. Perhaps it is worth stocking up on silver anniversary cards after all.

Maybe it sounds like a cliché, but life with autism has made Jim and Charlie and I, and Jim and I, a tighter unit; a unit, cohesive, symbiotic, and together. We’ll see you in 2020.*


*Jim and I have been married since 1995.

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    • Kathy

      Life isn’t easy for anyone really.
      I think that we are all faced with challenges in our lives.
      I have never really thought of life with Mark as being a hardship.Of course it isn’t always easy, and finding a babysitter on occasions can be difficult….. But he is such a happy smilin’ little guy. He is a joy.

      BTW Kristina, Rory and I were married in 1995 too! (19th November)

    • Jen

      My impression from reading the book was that divorce was coming for McCarthy and her husband, but their son’s autism diagnosis perhaps sped up McCarthy’s realization that it needed to occur.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      16th of December!

    • http://maternal-instincts.blogspot.com Niksmom

      I have often wondered what the fate of many marriages would have been *without* autism. What other factor would be the cause? Not to disparage the toll on any relationship when one deals with autism or other special needs. But it bears reflection that many marriages have become even *more solid* as a result; I believe this is because the couple is more aligned in shared values and priorities and are better able to “roll with the punches,” so to speak. I know that is the case for my husband and me. We made a conscious decision when Nik was born that our challenges could either mkae or break us. We recently celebrated our 6th anniversary; Nik will be 4 in Dec. :-)

    • http://whittereronautism.com mcewen

      It’s all a question of what mix you have in the pressure cooker initially and how much water? Did you rinse off the bits of straw and pick out the grit? Is the gas too high, did you soak them first? Do you want them to be mush or still have some texture? I don’t care if you call them Garbanzo beans or chick peas, or whether a few kidney beans slipped into the mix. Just be sure that you wear an oven glove and release the pressure, often.
      Cheers, and Dahl to you all

    • Karen

      I agree with Niksmom.

      “Jim and I have made many of our choices based on “what Charlie needs” rather than on what would be best for the two of us and I do hope that, ultimately this will be best for the three of us.”

      This is exactly what my marriage didn’t have. My ex-H was always mad that needs other than his own had to come first, from where we lived (or in this case, could not live) to what we had for dinner to exactly how I spent my time. So yes, it is perhaps true that this would have surfaced even if Pete wasn’t on the spectrum but his disability just made our different paretning and really LIFE philosophies impossible to ignore.

      Add alcoholism, abuse, and adultery and you don’t exactly have a happy marriage. My ex-H had a much, much harder time accepting that Pete has a disability than I did. Is it a male thing? (meaning that he overidentified with Pete because he’s a boy?) I saw our marriage disintegrate at a steady pace once Pete started early internvention. Interesting, too, because that is about when things started to really look up for me and Pete.

      We were together for 16 years — 8 of them married. My divorce just became final last week. I’m really sad, despite everything because this is not what I wanted for me or my kids. But things are very much better for me and my boys now.

      While I don’t necessarily put a whole lot of weight in statistics, I know enough other mothers in a very similar situation to mine to say that I think having a child with a disability can put an enormous amount of stress on a marriage. Even a good one, depending on a lot of different circumstances. But I also think just being parents can do this to people and we certainly don’t need the media highlighting yet another “bad” aspect of raising a disabled child.

      I also have to admit that I have thought the same thing as Jenny M (god forbid, hard to admit that) regarding me finding love again as a divorced mom to two sons, one on the spectrum.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      It’s definitely been the case that Charlie and autism have taken up most of Jim’s and my conversations, thoughts, plans for the past 10 years (Charlie was born in 1997). Ironically, perhaps, it was only last year—when Charlie was doing, as he has been, much better himself, that Jim and I were able to look at ourselves and realize how much had been back-burnered to take care of Charlie. No regrets for having done so.

      Karen, that’s too much—-but good to know that things are better.

      Niksmom, I really like how you put it.

    • Ms. Clark

      Ms. McCarthy said she had an “open marriage” she “saw” other men and women.

      What I want to know is what is the divorce rate for ex-playboy bunnies and/or MTV stars? I’m guessing it’s 100% by 10 years.

      The man she married is not known for his depth and explained that he could only relate to her through sex…. so what does that have to do with autism? It doesn’t sound to me like they were ever “really” married in the sense of committed to each other.

      But she can get all this pity if she blames the divorce on the evil autism.

    • http://miscthing.blogspot.com ange

      We’ve been married for 10 years (well our anniversary is in Oct) and at 1 year and 5 years we were near divorce. We had to grow up, stop being selfish, and learn how to appreciate and respect one another (differences and all). Our children are why we are STILL married. Not in the cliche “we stayed together for our children” way, but in the “we learned how to love *eachother* in the way we naturally and unconditionally loved our children” way. (And yes, I did say “learned.”) Some say love shouldn’t be hard, but we work at it every day. I never thought I could love my husband like I do now.

    • amy

      Kristina, recognize that you’re very lucky not only in your own strengths but in your husband’s. The ability to withstand and find meaning in chronic hardship is rare enough; the ability to do more than withstand, and grow, is something else again.

      I would guess that even in many marriages that survive disability, one spouse is largely carrying the family, and the other is dazed and along for the ride, even doing childish things like cheating. I know of marriages like this, where the spouse doing the carrying has also decided to accept the situation. They don’t, as far as I know, discuss the inequities openly. Maybe because the carrying spouses know the dazed ones can’t bear to hear it, and would leave.

      Unfortunately I’m also aware of divorces involving autistic children where the men simply do not want to know that their children will need expensive care, and that the newly-single mothers will not be able to work fulltime. In the divorces I know about, though, the judges have appreciated the realities. Which means the women get more money and a furious ex. Talk about a fraught economic incentive to say, “You just have to make him behave.”

    • long day’s journey into acceptance

      Oh, good, I’ve been waiting for this subject to appear again — apologies for skimming your blog-post K. and not yet reading the comments….

      A few weeks ago, I looked into that 80% quote again when it was once-again quoted (sans cites) in a newspaper.

      Seems the 80% divorce rate is given for lotsa couples, like “swingers”; “professional athletes”; “remarriages”.

      Interesting, though, is the “study” which appears to be its’ genesis [which, if memory serves, dealt with a 'study' by clergymen (i think i recall) in re: American men marrying Korean women directly after the Korean War].

      http://www.google.com/search?q=%2280+percent+divorce+rate%22&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&start=0&sa=N

    • long day’s journey into acceptance

      It may be mere gossip, but I’d long heard that Asher divorced McCarthy over her affair with Jenna Jameson.

    • Karen

      Thank you, Amy, for putting into words the parts of my own story that I could not. I never really thought of it that way, but I was (and still am) carrying the family. When I told my then-husband some of these things, he raged at me, drank more, withdrew, cheated. It was a disaster.

      By the way, I was lucky enough to find a decent-paying part time job (I’m a teacher) and the state of California thinks I should get an adequate support amount from my ex.

    • KimJ

      As we’ve discussed this before, I’m right with Kristina on this one. Again, I’m only acquainted with still-marrieds in the “autism club”.
      I am familiar with victims of disease (cancer) blaming their divorce on it as if nothing else could be a factor. I have seen unhappily married people separate after the death or illness of a child. And they will blame the event (or the ex for his/her treatment of the event).
      It reminds me of a radio contest years ago, they said 22% of the newlyweds that divorce do it because of fights over baby names. That sounds pretty random and petty to me.
      What my point is that events like diagnosis, death, adultery are usually last straws, not necessarily the culprit. It’s like currency, money isn’t good or bad, it’s what you do with it and how you see it.

    • long day’s journey into acceptance

      Perhaps I’m reading this wrong:

      “… to withstand and find meaning in _chronic hardship_ ”

      And, if so I apologize in advance, but if not: I find it entirely disrespectful to autists (as well as their family members) one and all.

    • http://miscthing.blogspot.com ange

      I suppose it depends what you mean “one spouse is largely carrying the family, and the other is dazed and along for the ride” How I interact with my children is very different than how my husband interacts with them. Long ago I would get furious because he didn’t integrate sensory breaks, or he would rough house too much, or let them watch too much TV., etc. Sometimes it still irritates me and we do disagree on some fundamental childrearing principles. I used to think he was “in denial” and he thought I was “obsessed” when our first son was born. We were both right; we nearly crashed and burned, but we worked through it and have learned to balance eachother out. As far as disability world goes, I “carry” the family. My husband provides input, but tells me it is too overwhelming for him to plan for IEPs, or deal with state people, or find activities for the boys or whatever. It used to make me mad, but we did what works for us. I quit my fulltime job, I carry the family in some ways, and he carries us financially and keeps our spirits up when things get hard. We’re there to pick one another up and push eachother along if we need it. It is not unheard of for us to switch roles. As out family unit stands now, neither of us could do what we do without the support of the other. Not to romanticize our marriage, we’ve been through “childish” events, we’ve been through personal and marital hell a few times. But what we’ve learned is that we can overcome (by this I mean overcome our personal and marriage issues, not our children for goodness sake).

    • http://maternal-instincts.blogspot.com Niksmom

      Ange, I love what you have to say about learning to love…I agree and think that there are absolutely days I must *choose* to love my husband –usually when he’s being an ass and I am being petty and childish –always a lovely combination! LOL

      When I think about this topic and read some of the comments, it reminds me of how very grateful I am for the partnership of my husband. There but for the grace of God…

    • http://www.BeastTheNovel.com Strike123

      We’re very close friends with a couple who had a rocky relationship from the beginning. They came from very different types of families with conflicting values, and had been involved in marriage counseling on and off for several years in hopes of being able to put things right between them. The counseling didn’t seem to be working for them.

      My observation is that the love and sense of responsibility they each had for their autistic child kind of pulled them together. For after they received the autism diagnosis, the marriage counseling stopped. It was no longer necessary, I guess. This couple has been married for over twenty years now, with no outward signs of anything but the deepest feelings of love and respect for one another.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      It’s interesting to see how autism has become the fulcrum according to which McCarthy’s life-narrative is being referred to.

      Regarding “chronic hardship”: My “autismland” blog sought to chronicle our life with Charlie from June 2005-February 2007, and to show how difficult moments were ever intermixed, and outnumbered, by the light.

    • M’sDad

      Kristina – just catching up after a crazy week – 16th of December 1995? Our anniversary as well… Clearly we’re separated at birth… :-)

      I like what all of you have said. My spouse and I have divided the “carrying” somewhat: I take care of the bulk of the school-and-therapy side of M’s “team” (as an academic, I have a more flexible schedule than she does); she takes care of the medical side (including the insanely complex insurance paperwork).

      I do think our interaction as a couple has changed, and both of us miss the time that we had for each other before M. But I gather that’s true of all parents. And I agree with Kristina’s latest, that difficult moments and light moments are intermingled, and that the “hardship” in no way outbalances the positives (again, true of all parent-child relationships?) — but I also think it’s honest to acknowledge difficulties, because they *do* exist … and I think that trying to ignore them (rather than acknowledging them, processing, and moving on) can create problematic results.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      “acknowledging them, processing, and moving on”: that’s the name of the game.

      Yes, the 16th of December—inbetween semesters and, as we got married in Northern California, many friends were very happy to attend.

    • Melanie, Bobby’s mom

      I think Hubby and I had a good marriage before Bobby – we were married in June 1994 and had our boy in 2003 – and I think all in all we still do. We are lucky in a lot of ways, though, with health insurance, family support and good intervention programs, so we’ve been spared those additional stressors. Although, any diagnosis will be a huge shock to the relationship, even if you’re expecting one and not in denial!

      And while the stress of everything Bobby-related (especially the physical stuff – the boy is big and strong and I am small) really messes up my head at times, Hubby has a very level-headed, practical “let’s just get this done and freak out later” personality. I think that’s a very necessary combo for Bobby’s well-being. I am the primary paperwork-manager and therapy-taxi-driver in the house, but that’s because I work flex hours from home. Hubby is great at following up what the therapists and teachers say we should do, and much better than I am at doing the home OT exercises. Swinging a 42 pound boy in giant circles around the room for vestibular stimlation is waaaaay out of my league now!

      The main effect of hearing the divorce statistic for me is that I am determined to NOT be a statistic if at all possible. Also (selfishly??), I do not want to be the primary caretaker alone in the house with Bobby all the time. That would be bad. Very bad. When Hubby is not the house, the boy pushes every little button I have, repeatedly and with great skill. I think that’s any 4 year old child’s particular talent, though…and I can’t imagine going it alone, even with joint custody arrangements.

    • http://www.mumkeepingsane.blogspot.com Leanne

      I think the term ‘fairweather friends’ can also be used in describing marriage. Some partners are ‘fairweather spouses’ and, be it Autism or some other stressor, when the difficult times come….

      I also think communication is key. I think having a healthy marriage before we had Patrick allowed us to ‘weather the storm’ of diagnosis and upheaval. And no, I don’t mean to imply Patrick or Autism is the storm.

    • Melanie, Bobby’s mom

      Leanne, I think that kids in general can be a “storm” at times – I know I was to my parents! “Weathering the storm” is a pretty good description of what our diagnosis and intial treatment period was like, though. All the doc visits, evaluators poking at Bobby, then the flurry of referrals and meetings to set up EI and insurance back-and-forth – it leaves you breathless and tired at the best, and probably temporarily batty. Any life-changing situation like that can test your marriage, I’d bet, no matter what shape the relationship is in before. I’ve read similar divorce statistics for parents of children with cancer, physical disabilities and other serious medical issues, and also for parents who lose a child to an accident or crime. I wonder if all those studies are pulling from a similar pool of respondents?

    • AJ

      I guess that I feel the need to chime in. Rudy and I will celebrate our 16th anniversary on October 5. Between us, we have 5 kids….two of his, three of ours, though I claim all as mine.

      I have to admit that I detected some denial (a very small “some”) when JP was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He knew something was different, but, as JP is the only boy with (now) four sisters, that’s kinda hard for a man to agree to. Put into the mix that this is a (now) 67-year-old man whose children range in age from 39 to 5. There’s also a different culture to consider (he’s from the Philippines). However, when Ely was diagnosed with classic, moderate-to-severe autism at 2, there was no denial. There was simply acceptance.

      And yet? This man has been The Dad. He does not differentiate between his children with his first wife (who died before he and I met) and me. He is The Dad, and I am The Mom. Our two with autism? Yes, he probably spends MORE time with them than he does with the older three, but he feels that obligation because he’s the one who is at work all day, and I stay home. He understands that I would actually prefer to work, but these kids need me more. (That’s a whole ‘nother post, isn’t it, Kristina?)

      There are things that we, as with any other couple, argue about…money, politics, discipline….but I guess I’m lucky because it’s never gotten to the point where a) he feels ignored, b) I’ve felt ignored, c) I’ve felt he’s ignored the kids, etc. He is with me at most ARDs, he tries to schedule vacation days around the kids’ holidays (even staff development days), just….cheesy as it may sound….his life rotates around his kids. He’s pretty conversant in “autism”, and he feels that all of his kids–NT and ASD — are pretty capable of anything. And he’s a GREAT teacher.

      I will say, however, that, when the day comes that he decides to retire? That’s the day I’ll go back to work. Why? When he’s home full-time, he tends to rearrange my spice cabinet and my cleaning products, and it drives me nuts.

    • http://www.discussingautism.com pickel

      This really struck a cord today, as we are going through a rough patch lately. Will we make it through it? of course…we always do because we told ourselves that we would and we work on it. Does it get hard? yes.
      My perspective on Jenny McCarthy has been evolving. I think she is strong but I also think that she is one of those celebrity moms who has all of the things she needs. How often does she (or her husband) really have to deal with the tantrums, sensory defensiveness, late night wakings, OT, PT, speech therapies, making the food, grocery shopping, potty training, medication issues, etc. like we do?

      Sure, she probably deals with the medical side and plays with her son but doesn’t the nanny do most else? As a “normal” family my son takes a beating on me from noon until 7 p.m. when he is in school. I am much more refreshed on the weekends when my husband is around more.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      All of Charlie’s ABA therapists are sick and his home SLP has tons of paperwork for her job (it’s parent/teacher conference time). It’s been Charlie and me—-Jim has had to lecture and teach in NYC—-from 3.15pm until about now when he is asleep: All great moments with my (not so) little (anymore) best friend, but no possbility of anyone producing a “nanny diary” around here.

    • KimJ

      “As a “normal” family my son takes a beating on me from noon until 7 p.m. when he is in school. I am much more refreshed on the weekends when my husband is around more.”

      I don’t know what “normal” is. But I’ll agree with your lack of “nanny” to do the childcare/housekeeping footwork. I do know that most “normal” families I hear from, meet and read about have extended families-as in Grandparents, aunts and cousins and various neighbors that chip in for babysitting, entertainment and for peer-modelling. I don’t live in the same state of any relatives.
      We’re always somewhat envious of people who get that proverbial village to raise their child.

    • Jake

      I have been seeing Jenny McCarthy do the book tour and I have a few comments. I think she is doing a disservice to those struggling with autism by not making mention that there is an entire spectrum of autism. Instead she makes “global” statements that autism is treatable and and can be cured. While many can thank her for putting the disease on many a person’s radar……..she may be giving false hope to others. I don’t know her situation specifically, however I would surmise her son was not diagnosed very high up the autism spectrum.

      On the divorce rate itself. We have lived the classic autism diagnosis and marital struggles. We are fortunate in that our son was only diagnosed in the middle of the autism spectrum. Of course I wanted nothing to do with dealiing with the realities of the financials associated with getting the proper treatment…..and hoped that we can deal with it on our own. My wife’s days and nights became an obsession with getting the best treatment……regardless of whether it made sense or whether we could afford it. She took the approach of just getting the treatment and figured we can work out the bills later. This fit right in with her general approach to finances (in the rest of her life)…..but was in a giant conflict with how I managed life.

      Therefore, we both grew to resent each other since neither of us was on board with the “priorities” of the other. My son’s story has been a success as he has worked his way into a typical schooling program (now in the 4th grade) and is doing well.

      Unfortunately it’s our marriage that continues to be derailed. I would bet many other couples would have divorced years ago. My wife continues her obsession with the children’s (including my typical daughter) education. She has no other interests/hobbies outside of the children (including me). My wife and I essentially cohabitate and make the best of the situaation. I can choose to get out…..but am concerned about how it will impact the kids.

      I think we both rationalize staying in the “marriage” by saying the childrens needs are greater than ours at this time…..and it would be selfish to stay in it.

      That said….I definitely feel for those couples dealing with much more severe autism situations, where neither the child nor the marriage seem to show any progress.

    • http://www.autismvox.com Kristina Chew, PhD

      Jake, it’s really good to know how well your son is doing. But you touch on a point that has come up in my own household: My husband and I both often find ourselves so involved in work and also with work and attending to Charlie’s needs that we do not do as much for each other as we might. We do coordinate the financial situation, plus I work, but money and bills are an ever-present worry: It often seems that there is never enough…… My son has a lot of needs and challenges (he’s not exactly in the middle of the spectrum, I guess one could say) and he is our only child.

      Thank you for sharing about things and many best wishes—

    • amy

      Jake, I think your situation is not uncommon.

      I understand the obsession with finding the very best treatment and money be damned. I went through it with my ex, and spent a lot of energy and money on a futile quest for the NBA doctor-team of mental health. Eventually I had to recognize that things were not likely to get much better for him, and that even if some sort of dream team was possible, it would’ve needed managing. Forever. And there were two other people in the family. It still makes me queasy to see him lurch around in life and talk a little delusionally, but I remind myself that there’s probably nothing much to be done, and there is no emergency.

      Two books that might help in acceptance of “not everything”, although they aren’t about autism, are _The Burden of Sympathy_ by David Karp (about being responsible for mentally ill family members) and _How We Die_, by Sherwin Nuland. The Nuland book is especially readable, and I think it’s useful in a culture of “everything is an emergency and you must do everything possible to save/help _____!” He talks about death, what it is, how it works, and how we have essentially tried to avoid dealing with it by making every death a medical “lifesaving” affair.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with staying in for the children, by the way. It’s a sensible thing to do. A loving, warm marriage is great, but if that’s not there, a partnership for raising children, even a chilly one, is a pretty good second. It beats the hell out of instability, empty bank accounts, chronic lawyer dealings, custody tiffs, kids trucking back/forth between houses, kids meeting girlfriends and boyfriends, etc.

      My experience is that even in a really “good” divorce, with daily visitation and a reliable noncustodial parent, it’s a struggle to keep the other parent in the picture. You just don’t think about him or her that much after a while, because you’re doing so much of the work on your own. Last week I took my daughter to the ER; it didn’t occur to me for most of an hour to call her father and let her know we were there. He thanked me, but didn’t offer to come down, and I didn’t even think of being indignant till the next day. He just isn’t the ER/doctors/lessons-finding/clothes-buying/
      playdate-arranging/etc. guy. And of course if we were still together, he’d be there for most of this, even if I was still the one making it go. It all sounds shocking, but in the moment the custodial parent is just thinking, “Gotta do this, gotta do that, where’s my phone?”

    • http://www.familyforreal.com Russ K

      When raising a son with autisim, there is little time left for anything other than how did he do today, what new research have you done, what did his therapists say today. This is night and day compared to a normal marriage with what i consider more normal challenges. This is something that doesn’t get resolved in a week, or months, or even years – it is lifelog.

      While I appreciate that challenges and crisis may bring people closer together, you can’t ignore that this is day in, day out, for years, and it erodes the opportunities you have to ever spend time thinking about your spouse, doing little things for them here or there, or even having a conversation without the thought being in the back of your head wondering what else you should be doing for your son….

      The only thing that keeps the divorce rate from being 100% is the risk of making any chance for your sons recovery or ability to live a somewhat normal life being negatively impacted by 1/2 the income [to spend on therapy], 1/2 the attention of parents, and an inability to understand why there mom or dad is no longer there every day.

      I like hearing from other parents of children with autism – anyone else is simplify not qualified to comment.

      familyforreal.com

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    • Cookie

      Honestly, I can see how it happens having a special needs child that no one but you cares about. People are so indifferent to children with autism. It’s the saddest thing. The government doesn’t give a crap as most Autism kids don’t get a penny in services from the government. Not through Mental Health, Social Security, Medicaid, nothing.

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    • Bob G

      A Father’s side of the story:

      My wife and I have a 14 year old with Aspergers and an 11 year old who is profoundly autistic. Two years ago, we decided to remove both from public school, and my wife began homeschooling. Our 14 year old had severe problems with social interaction and became a huge target of bullying, to the point of where he drafted a suicide note. My 11 year old was in a Life Skills classroom and was not being taught anything.

      I love both my children dearly, and I spend every waking moment with them when I am not at work. I help around the house with a major part of the chores and my wife spends a lot of time in the evenings with her friends to try to maintain her sanity.

      She is imploding from the weight of this constant struggle, and despite every thing I do to help, she uses me as the scapegoat rather than admit how much pressure there is in raising Autistic children. She is depressed and overwhelmed, and all I can do is watch our life slowly crumble. We will most likely divorce this year and there is nothing I can do. It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I have no friends and absolutely no social life. My two boys are my best friends.

      I see so many posts from women who have/had husbands who couldn’t cope with Autism. I just wanted to someone to know that there are fathers out there committed to their Autistic children.