Disabled Parents and the Americans with Disabilities Act

A laughing mother embraces her small child while standing in front of ocean waves

Within the United States, 1 in 10 children have a parent who has been diagnosed with some form of disability and 4.1 million of those disabled parents are parenting their children. With such a pervasive and unique group, it would be assumed that the laws surrounding these parenting arrangements are solidified and grounded. However, issues involving the parental rights of disabled parents are widespread and unfortunately common. The courts often forget to evaluate the best interest of the child in concert with the federal statutes of antidiscrimination against disabled individuals. Contact a custody attorney today to discuss your parental rights and how your disability may affect your court ordered child custody arrangement.

In a research study conducted by the Nation Council on Disability in 2012, parents with disabilities were “overly and inappropriately referred to child welfare services,” and are separated from their children at disproportionately higher rates than parents without medical disabilities. However, this discrimination is not simply occurring in family courts involving government intervention, but also in private child custody matters such as those involved in a divorce, or even parents seeking to adopt or become foster parents. Those individuals who have been discriminated against due to their disabilities involving their parental rights have had to seek out remedies in the court system to rectify the injustice. These disabilities considered by the courts or welfare services and the law include physical disabilities such as paralysis, deafness, blindness, or mental and intellectual disabilities.

Research has concluded, that such discrimination can result in not only harmful effects on the disabled parent but also on the child involved in the custody disagreement. It has long been held and understood that a child benefits most in a stable, consistent environment with continuous interaction with both parents. Therefore, when the court removes a child from a parent simply due to a disability this can have serious developmental ramifications on the child. For instance, a newborn was removed from the custody of its parents due to questions regarding their parenting capabilities surrounding their disability of blindness. They were separated from their child for 57 days, during a crucial time in development for a newborn. A similar instance occurred, when a caregiver’s rights were stripped due to her development of arthritis and mobility issues. After being removed from the home, the child began to experience significant developmental and emotional issues due to the separation.

Although the goal of any court that involves the custody of a child, revolves around determining the best interest of the child, the court must also seek to consider the parental rights given within the constitution and limit the discrimination and stigma associated with a parent who lives with a disability. The challenge courts face is the interaction of Florida Statute 61.13 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Although many view these laws as being in conflict with one another, they actually are complementary in nature. For example, the Florida Statute requiring the court to look to the physical and mental health of a parent, also requires the court to assess the assistance of third parties in the care of the child. Which may coincide with the respective benefits provided by the ADA to parents with disabilities, and their access to increased opportunities for care of their child. It is important to find an educated Orlando Child Custody Attorney to bring these advantages to the court’s attention in your case.

Discrimination of any individual with disabilities is not only illegal, but can cause significant damage to innocent parties connected to the action, including children. Therefore, the court needs to seek out proper education and evaluation of the situations that involve child custody issues with disabled parents. An individual should not be stripped of their parental rights simply because of a disability. The capability of the parent to engage in the care of the child, provide for the necessary third party care and opportunities, as well as manage the responsibilities of child rearing should all be considered and cause the court to look past the disability. The court need not only invest in the child’s best interest but the disability itself and not formulate significant court decisions on speculation and stereotypes. Find an Orlando Child Custody Attorney that will draw on the interaction of Florida Statute and Federal Law to formulate a plan that is in the best interest of the child and family before them.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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