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Do disabled parents have a custody disadvantage? (1)

It is estimated that more than 6 million children in Las Vegas and throughout the United States have disabled parents. Certainly, these families face unique challenges as they navigate everyday life, many of which require considerable creativity and adaptability to overcome.

However, there is one obstacle that is all-too-often placed in the path of parents with disabilities: the pervasive, unjustified belief that their disability renders them unable to properly care for their children, and the loss of custody that often results from that belief. A new report from the National Council on Disability catalogs the many cases in which courts and child welfare officials blatantly cite a parent’s disability when deciding to remove the child from the parent’s care. Hopefully, that report becomes the motivation for a shift in legislation and in the mindset of the judges and child welfare workers that encounter and decide cases involving disabled parents.

In 1990, Congress passed the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), which expressly forbids discrimination based on a disability. Under the Act, employers cannot fire or refuse to hire someone because of their disability, and public buildings must be made accessible for the disabled. However, many states have child welfare laws in place which expressly allow courts to determine that a parent is unfit to care for their child based solely on the parent’s disability. According to the report, this “clearly violates” the intent of the ADA.

Regardless, these state laws still stand, and they continue to deprive disabled parents of their parental rights, even when there are no other allegations of unfitness or the inability to care for the child.

We will continue this discussion on our next family law blog post.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Disabled parents face bias, loss of kids: report,” David Crary, Nov. 26, 2012

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