Child Custody and Disabilities

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Most Common Family Law Issues:

Can a Parent With a Disability Obtain Custody?

Parents with disabilities are protected by federal regulations from discrimination when it comes to issues of child custody. The Americans with Disabilities Act ensure that parents with disabilities are not the victims of discrimination in child custody agreements and enforcement policies.

Governmental child protective services have a responsibility to protect children from neglect and abuse, but they must respect federal laws regarding disability discrimination. Parents who have disabilities of any kind should be aware of their rights to have and keep custody of their children.

Which Disabilities Pose the Highest Risk?

Disability matters in child custody arrangements if the disability would pose a threat to the child that could not be accommodated. Parents have been illegally separated from their children for being blind, being wheelchair-bound, and being developmentally disabled. While many such situations eventually result in children being returned to their parents and a family being reunited, an unnecessary separation causes strain for everyone. States are required to help disabled parents adapt to their disabilities.

Courts and state agencies are also required to treat parents with a disability the same as parents without a disability when it comes to procedures such as fostering and adoption. When it comes to child custody, the highest rule is generally the best interest of the child. Changes in disability status can also affect child support, and may be grounds for a child support modification.

Parents have the right to a relationship with their offspring as well, and family lawyers often succeed with the argument that it is in the child’s best interest to know and to sustain relationships with his or her adoptive or biological parents.

Does It Matter Which State I Live In?

No. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Rehabilitation Act are federal regulations that apply to citizens in all states. However, sometimes local or municipal workers may not be aware of federal regulations when making recommendations to revoke custody from disabled parents.

“Individualized treatment” is an important legal principle. This means that in the eyes of the court, parents with disabilities must be assessed on a case-by-case basis rather than be assessed based on generalizations about their condition. If a disabled parent has arranged for modifications, for example, or hired childcare help to assist with daily parenting tasks, these must be weighed by the court as factors in deciding the best interest of the child.

The second important legal principal is “full and equal opportunity.” Again, this ensures that parents with disabilities are provided with opportunities to participate in all programs and services that nondisabled parents have access to. Rather than reducing parental standards for those with disabilities, child welfare agencies and family courts should help disabled parents access helpful parental aids.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

A family lawyer is always essential in any custody issue or debate. Time spent apart from children during custody disputes is hard on both parties, but may be especially damaging to children, who are still in developmental phases. A lawyer can advise you of your best legal options and represent you during custody hearings and in family court.

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Last Modified: 04-18-2016 03:28 PM PDT

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