Can Parents with Disabilities Enjoy Custody of their Children in Divorce?
You’re the kids’ parent, right? Who better than you to raise them? There is literally no one on this earth who can love them more, build their esteem, and help them become good, solid human beings. But there’s a problem. Your soon-to-be ex wants full custody, and has a slight advantage: they don’t suffer from a life-altering disability like you do.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination and seeks to ensure that they enjoy opportunities and rights equal to those offered to individuals who do not have disabilities. It is a federal law, and applies to individuals across the country.
Can You Get Custody?
The court always prefers when couples can come up with a shared custody and time-sharing plan themselves, simply requiring the court’s stamp of approval in the end. When that’s not possible, the court will intervene to decide what will be in the best interests of the children. Regardless of what either parent may desire, the kids always come first with the court. That being said, the ADA requires that individuals with disabilities cannot be denied the opportunity to raise their children simply due to their disability. If you can demonstrate that you still have the ability and desire to care for your kids, you should be able to participate in their lives and share custody like any other parent.
Challenges of a Disability in Court
The court must consider the possibility that a disability would impact your ability to effectively parent. In situations where the disability cannot reasonably be accommodated, and where the impacts of the disability could place the children in danger, the court may find that it is unsafe for a disabled parent to be alone with their children. The principle of individualized treatment requires each case to be analyzed on its own merits; therefore the particular modifications in one setting may have significant influence over a court decision, despite a parallel situation having a different outcome. The court cannot rely on a stereotype to make custody determinations when an individual can demonstrate that they can, indeed, be a stellar parent, albeit with a little help in some situations. In some cases the court may need to be educated about adaptive parenting techniques that enable those with disabilities to perform parenting tasks with human to technological assistance. In any case, it is essential that a parenting assessment be conducted by a competent individual who is knowledgeable about parenting with disabilities, and who understands appropriate interventions for parents with disabilities.
Examples of Accommodations
Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities can make a world of difference for those people and their families. Just a few examples of services the court or other agencies may provide include:
- Hands-on parenting classes;
- Housing services;
- Transportation assistance;
- Adaptive equipment for parents, such as a lower crib, a talking thermometer, etc.;
- Personal assistants.
Fighting for You
If you are feeling disadvantaged in a custody battle due to a disability, know that the Springfield family attorneys at Courtney & Mills will advocate for you every step of the way. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our office today.