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Can My Disability Affect Child Custody in California?

A Legal Team You Can Trust

People with disabilities love their children as much as anyone could love their own children. That’s why it may be concerning to realize that a parent’s physical or mental disability can put them at a disadvantage in a child custody dispute.

While at a glance it can look like unfettered ableism, questions about a disabled person’s ability to provide for their child’s needs aren’t all made in bad faith.

If a parent is unable to pick up and hold an infant, for example, there may be valid concerns about whether or not the parent can provide basic care for the child. Likewise, if a parent is an addict or, there can be reasonable concerns about how these could impact a child’s health and safety.

Physical Disability Can’t Be the Sole Factor

Fortunately for parents with disabilities, California no longer allows a parent’s physical disability to serve as the sole determining factor in a child custody dispute.

There have been cases where paraplegic and even quadriplegic parents won custody of their children. In these cases, the parents were able to demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that they made use of tools, technology, and other means to accommodate their disabilities and provide care for their children.

The courts will generally consider the following questions when analyzing a parent’s physical disability:

  • What are the parent’s actual and potential physical abilities and limitations?
  • How does the parent cope with their disability?
  • How have other family members adjusted to the parent’s disability?

To be clear, parents with physical disabilities can still lose custody of their children if the court believes there are additional factors that would adversely impact the welfare of the child. In all child custody disputes, the best interest of the child is always the court’s foremost concern.

Mental Illness & Child Custody

Mental illness is very common. Although people tend to associate the term with particularly severe conditions, “mental illness” includes those who experience depression, anxiety, and other common conditions with mild to severe symptoms.

That said, it’s not a stretch to assume many parents experience symptoms of some mental illness during their everyday lives – especially if they’re in the midst of a child custody dispute. Generally speaking, if the symptoms of a mental illness are properly managed and don’t interfere with the welfare of a child, then the mental illness might not play a large role in how the judge decides.

Parents who are inhibited by their mental illness – which can present as poor hygiene, an inability to hold a job, or a lack of interest in maintaining a safe and healthy living environment – can lose custody of their children. Again, the judge will determine how a child’s best interest stacks against the living situation a parent could offer.

Are You Concerned about Your Custody Dispute?

If you are a parent with a physical or mental disability, our attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP understand what you’re going through. You may feel fearful that you will be treated unfairly because of your disability, but our legal representation can help.

Our child custody attorneys can provide the legal support you need to fight to keep your family together.

For more information, please contact us online!

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