Can You Really Lose Custody Of Your Child Because You're Disabled?
As many as 9 million parents in the U.S. suffer from some form of disability. But should they suffer from the loss of their children as a result? If you're in a custody dispute and you suffer from a disability, here's what you should know.
The Judge Will Consider Your Disability As A Factor When Determining Custody
There are a dozen different factors that a judge has to consider when determining what's in the best interest of a child, once custody becomes an issue. One of those factors is specifically the mental and physical health of everyone involved, but other factors on the list have also been interpreted as having to do with a parent's physical or mental disability as well.
A parent has to have the ability to guide and educate the child, as well as provide for the child's mental and physical needs. In addition, the court has to consider the general safety of the household - and everyone in it.
That means that if you have any sort of disability that could affect your ability to care for your child in any way, it could be a factor when the court decides whether or not to allow you custody.
There Are Significant Biases Against People With Disabilities Of Any Sort
People with psychiatric conditions such as major depression or bipolar disorder probably face the most extreme discrimination. They have their children removed from their care as often as 80% of the time. However, people with physical disabilities aren't exempt from prejudice: around 13% of those say that they have been discriminated against by the child welfare system or courts because of their physical handicaps.
For example, one couple had their newborn child taken away simply because they are both blind. It took over a month for them to regain custody. In another situation, a paralyzed Navy veteran had to overcome the presumption that she wasn't able to care for her child when the baby's father filed for sole custody. His allegation was that her disability automatically made her incapable of providing a safe home for the child, despite the fact that she'd prepared by working with an occupational therapist and making numerous adaptations to the house.
There Are Ways To Minimize The Impact Of Your Disability In Court
If you suffer from a physical or mental disability, there are ways that you can minimize the impact of your condition when it comes time for the judge to make a decision about custody.
First, make sure that you seek treatment for any condition or illness that you have and that you follow through on all your doctor's recommendations for medication, physical therapy, and other treatment. Also make certain that you take several other important steps.
- Have an emergency plan in place, with an alternate caregiver.
- Make any necessary adaptations to your home in order to ensure your child's safety.
- Work closely with your child's pediatrician to make sure that your child is developing normally.
- Keep a record that proves you have seen the doctor, as this helps documents your ability to see to your child's needs.
If you find yourself facing a custody hearing because someone, such as an overeager social worker or an ex-spouse, has alleged that you're an unfit parent simply because of your disability, seek the services of an attorney right away.