Study: Disabled Parents Often Lose Child Custody Disputes

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C posted in Child Custody on Monday, November 26, 2012

A new report sheds light on what many advocates for the disabled say has long been a problem: parents with disabilities lose a disproportionate share of child custody disputes after a divorce.

The report, titled “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children,” says disabled parents with physical or mental disabilities are also more likely to have their children removed from them by government agencies.

There are an estimated 6.1 million children in this country who have disabled parents. Advocates for the disabled say that though the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, bias against the disabled continues, which they say is manifested in disproportionate losses of custody of all types by disabled parents.

You might remember the story of a Missouri couple — both blind — who had their daughter taken into custody by the state just two days after her birth. The reason: the mother was having trouble breastfeeding the newborn. As just about any pediatrician can attest, the problem is a common one among new mothers.

The couple had to fight for two months to get their daughter back. During that time, they were only allowed to see her two or three times per week, for just an hour a day.

The lead author of the report acknowledges that not every disabled parent is going to be a good one.

“Of course there are going to be some parents with disabilities who would be lousy parents — that’s the same with parents without disabilities,” she said.

The report urges states to change child custody laws — or for Congress to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act — so that disabilities can no longer be used as grounds for terminating parental rights.

The news article we read on this subject cited the case of a quadriplegic Illinois mom who went through an 18-month legal battle with an ex-boyfriend over custody of their young son. The ex had argued that the mom is “not a fit and proper person” to take care of the boy because of her disability.

The woman prevailed, however, by showing how she had prepared herself for motherhood, as well as prepared her house, and had assistants to provide aid whenever needed.

She retained custody and her son is now apparently happily attending preschool.

Child custody disputes are complicated legal and emotional issues for any parent involved, which is why an experienced family law attorney can be so useful in explaining legal options and fighting for parental rights and what’s best for the child.

Source: ABC News, “Disabled Parents Face Bias, Loss of Kids: Report,” David Crary, Nov. 26, 2012

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