Living with a mental disability or physical handicap can make even everyday tasks challenging. Unfortunately, just as a disability can affect your career, your personal life, and your finances, it can also affect your family and your child custody case.

Disability and Child Custody: The Facts

The National Council on Disability, a federal agency, released a report last month focusing on the issue of child custody and disabled parents. They found that, in general, the legal system does not have the proper safeguards in place to protect the rights of disabled parents who are fighting to keep their kids.

Across the country, 6.1 million children have a disabled parent. These parents have a significantly higher risk of losing custody of their children, especially when they are going through a divorce. The disabled may also face barriers when trying to conceive or adopt children. Sadly, some disabled parents may face child custody challenges during divorce, even though they have been successfully caring for their children for years.

Why and How Disability can Affect Child Custody

Some states have recently passed laws that protect the rights of disabled parents during the child custody process; however, many others still do not have specific laws regarding disabled parents. In Washington, child custody is based on the best interests of the children – a concept that can be quite confusing when a disabled parent is involved in the case.

In some cases, a disabled parent may be able to provide the same care, security, and safety as any other parent – with understandable modifications and differences. In addition, most judges agree that having children spend time with and have contact with both parents is ideal for kids. However, there are instances when the care of a disabled parent is not in the best interests of a child; for example, if a parent is unable to properly provide care and safety for his or her kids because of a disability. In a minority of heart-wrenching cases, a disabled parent caring for children could involve neglect or abuse.

3 Ways Parent Disability Could Affect Your Seattle Child Custody Case

There are millions of disabled Americans – and over six million are raising children. What happens when people with a mental or physical handicap go through a divorce or child custody case? Are their rights protected? Do they risk losing their children to their spouse?

Below, read about three ways that disability could affect your child custody case:

  • A disability could be used to discriminate against one parent. Especially in a few nationally covered cases, it seems clear that parents with disabilities may have to fight harder for custody of their children – even if custody is rightfully theirs. Sadly, during a divorce, one spouse might use the other spouse’s disability as a way to gain more time with the children, or to cut the other parent out altogether.
  • A disability could make it difficult for a parent to care for his or her child. There are cases in which a disabled parent simply is not able to provide a safe and secure environment for his or her children, even if he or she wishes to. Parents who cannot physically care for their children, or parents who have a mental disability that prevents them from giving their children the environment they need, may not receive custody.
  • Giving custody to a disabled parent may or may not be in the best interests of the child. In the end, every case is different and everything comes down to the best interests of the individual child in question. There are no clear-cut answers – each case will be decided by a judge or in mediation based on the facts of your case and the needs of your family. If you are a parent with a disability who is going through a divorce or child custody battle, be sure that you know your rights and that you understand which details of your case may be important.

Seek Advice From Our Seattle Child Custody Attorneys

If you are involved in a Washington State child custody case that involves a disabled parent (or two disabled parents), you may wish the assistance of a knowledgeable, experienced Seattle divorce and custody lawyer. To learn more about our legal services – and to learn more about your case – call the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny today: 425-460-0550.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington