Our Maryland readers probably know that a custody dispute can be one of the most heartrending parts of a divorce or any other type of an end to a relationship. Child custody can be one of the most contentious issues for a separating couple to come to terms with, especially when both parents feel like they are equally involved in the child’s life. There are a variety of factors that a court will consider when trying to make the determination regarding what is in the best interests of the child. But a recent news story highlighted one factor which may be inadvertently rising to the surface in some cases: a parent’s disability.
The story highlighted the plight of parents with disabilities ranging from blindness to cerebral palsy. Disability as a factor in determining custody can pop up not only in a child custody dispute during a divorce, but also between a set of committed parents and the state. The story highlighted one problem in particular, when a set of blind parents had their child taken into state protective custody two days after the birth, possibly because of the perception that the blind parents may not have been suitable parents for the newborn child.
According to the news report, the problem is actually widespread throughout the country. And, although legal protections have been put in place throughout the years to help keep those who suffer from a disability from being discriminated against, apparently more must be done.
There are many valid factors a court should take into consideration when trying to come to a determination in a child custody dispute. The child’s wishes, if the child is old enough to express them, are one of the most important factors, as are any type of history of abuse or neglect. But considering a parent’s disability should only come into play if there has been some type of allegation that the disability i s hindering the person from effectively carrying out their parental duties. When it comes to having a disability held against someone in a custody dispute, it can be paramount to get the right information on how to proceed in a way which points out the potentially discriminating aspect this type of evaluation holds.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Disabled Parents Often Lose Custody Of Children, Report Finds,” David Crary, Nov. 26, 2012