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Thread: Disabled parents and child custody

  1. #1

    Disabled parents and child custody

    On the news last night there was a story about a mentaly disabled mother losing custody of her child so my fiance and I were discussing what would happen if we split up (hypothetically of course).
    Would a SCI parent get custody? My fiance said he wouldn't be entirely comfortable with me having sole custody of our daughter, because if she hurt herself and fell or something I couldn't help her or if there was a fire I couldn't rescue her. I understand his reasoning (even though it hurts a bit) and those scenarios worry me too.
    What do you guys think? What if the SCI parent hired a live in nanny or something?

    "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow"
    ~ Anon

  2. #2
    Emi-

    I have researched this one and there is no hard and fast rule (at least in the US). It's up to the discretion of the judge. The basic thought is to encourage whatever is in the best interest of the child.

    C5/6 incomplete, injured Aug. 2000

  3. #3
    Junior Member
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    Nov 2003
    Location
    Tupelo, Mississippi, USA
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    My son is going thru a divorce and his soon to be ex-wife is wanting to move to ARK. David wants to get custody. David is a c4/c5 incomplete and lives with me and my husband. Any info. and opinions on this subject would be great.

    Pam Baureis

  4. #4
    Tigger had this question some time ago. The best resource on thissubject that I know of is a group out of Berkeley named Through the Looking Glass.

    The bottom line is in most states the question will be "the best interests of the child" as Bethany has alluded to. As a parent with a disability you need to know your best defenses to the obvious arguments against you. There is no jury here so your challenge will be educating the judge and overcoming any bias he may have.

    Through the Looking Glass has provided limited legal support and mainly expert witness testimony on this issue for almost two decades. Try to buy any written materials they have on the subject. It will be worth your time and money.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity. Maximus - Gladiator

  5. #5
    My friend, a T4 para, is currently fighting for custody of her 5 year old boy. Her bf (an AB guy with mild brain damage from an anorism...they met in rehab) and her just split up and his parent's are fighting for custody. Her court hearing is this Friday and since she's poor, I'm worried the lawyer assigned to her won't be able to get her custody. She has a pot problem so I'm sure they're going to bring that up.

    Is there anything she should do/say in her defense?

  6. #6
    I too would guess that best interest of the child would be the primary factor in deciding custody. But, a parent with an SCI is probably going to have to overcome a fair amount of prevailing thought in the court system that SCI "just can't do that." It's absurd, but a group of AB judges and lawyers are going to come in with the same prejudices that is out there in the public.

    Interesting story, and the real reason I'm posting. My wife's outpatient OT recently did an evaluation of a quad trying to keep custody of his daughter. I forget what level of injury, but something around C6 complete. The courts actually mandated that the OT visit the guy's home to demonstrate child care techniques like bathing the child, feeding the child, etc.

    Good news is, the guy had it wired and the judge granted him primary custody. It was great to hear.

  7. #7
    Originally posted by Theophania:

    My friend, a T4 para, is currently fighting for custody of her 5 year old boy. Her bf (an AB guy with mild brain damage from an anorism...they met in rehab) and her just split up and his parent's are fighting for custody. Her court hearing is this Friday and since she's poor, I'm worried the lawyer assigned to her won't be able to get her custody. She has a pot problem so I'm sure they're going to bring that up.

    Is there anything she should do/say in her defense?
    Theopania,

    I'm not a child custody attorney and more than likely am not familiar with the laws of the pertinent jurisdiction. As such any advice I providecan not be reasonably relied upon by your friend.

    With that disclaimer in place, if she were my friend the arguments would be focused on the fact that she is the birth mother. Great deference is normally provided to natural parents over grand parents in almost all jurisdsictions. The burden of proof does not rely on her to prove she is a good mother. The burden of proof is on the other side to prove that she is not.

    There is nothing in the law that indicates having an SCI calls into question the ability to parent effectively. They need to come up with a basis that shifts the burden from them to her . . . ie expert testimony, witnesses to abuse or neglect, etc.

    With regard to the pot issue. Illicit drug use is a legitimate basis to deny custody. If she has a record, or THC can be found in the baby's bloodstream or hair follicles . . . she's got a problem. The burden will shift to her. If she loves her son, the drugs have to stop. Or she will lose custody. If not now, certainly in the future.

    Check out Through the Looking Glass on the web. They have some great resources on this issue and parenting with a disability as a whole.

    Good luck.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity. Maximus - Gladiator

  8. #8
    lar,

    thank you so much for yor excellent advice. i'm calling her tonight to tell her what you said.

    tiff

  9. #9
    I cannot imagine taking care of a small child in my condition and I can walk with a cane. But I have the other problems associated with being a quad. I would think the age of the child would be a big factor. I cannot enjoy small children at all. If there was one around someone else would have to take care of it.

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