Imagine the joy of being a first-time parent with your spouse. Now imagine that happiness coming crashing down because the state doesn’t believe you and your spouse are good enough parents because you are both disabled. Or imagine divorcing a non-disabled spouse and your disability being held against you in a child custody determination.
A new report from the National Council on Disability confirms what many disabled New Jersey parents already know: that despite the strides this country has made toward treating people with disabilities fairly, that some still view disabled parents as less than capable of caring for their children, which is far from the truth.
Disability advocates argue that allowing judges to revoke a parent’s custodial rights to his or her own children due to a disability violates that Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed in 1990.
One mother, who is a quadriplegic Navy veteran, almost lost her son because her ex-boyfriend sued for custody, arguing her disability made her an unfit mother. The woman had used an occupational therapy program, hired personal assistants and made accessibility changes to her house.
And two parents had their daughter taken away because both parents were blind. A nurse at the hospital said the woman appeared to be having trouble breast-feeding, which many say is common for all first-time mothers. They only regained custody after a lengthy legal battle.
In child custody cases, judges are responsible for ruling in the best interests of child. But clearly the law needs to catch up with common realities and stop discriminating against parents with disabilities.
Source: Associated Press, “Disabled Parents Often Lose Custody Of Children, Report Finds,” David Crary, Nov. 26, 2012