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Disabled Parents and Child Custody

Under federal law, disabled parents have the same parental rights as those without disabilities, however, they are often denied child custody in state court. Each state has its own rules governing child custody; in Maryland, courts may consider a parent’s physical or mental disability in determining what is in the best interests of the child. If you are a disabled parent, you are more likely to lose your parental rights after divorce, therefore, it is important that you know your legal rights and understand the laws that are in place to protect you.

Your Rights as a Disabled Parent

More than four million parents in the U.S. have a disability, according to the National Council on Disability (NCD). These parents are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibit unlawful discrimination against parents and prospective parents with disabilities. They are also entitled to parental rights under the U.S. Constitution.

However, states are permitted to interfere to protect the wellbeing of children and that rationale may serve as the basis for terminating disabled parents’ parental rights. Two-thirds of all dependency statutes allow courts to determine that a parent is unfit based on disability. In all states, disability is a factor that may be considered when determining the best interests of the child in custody cases.

According to an NCD report, blind and deaf parents have extremely high rates of child removal. Disabled parents also face higher barriers when it comes to adoption and removal rates are extremely high for parents with psychological or intellectual disabilities.

Disabled Parents and Maryland Law

In Maryland, a parent’s disability may only be factored into the custody decision if their disability affects the best interests of the child. Therefore, the non-disabled parent seeking custody must first prove that the other parent’s disability negatively affects the best interests of the child. If that is proven, then the disabled parent must show that supportive parenting services would prevent their disability from having such an effect on the child. Supportive parenting services are those that assist individuals with disabilities in caring for a child as successfully as parents without disabilities, such as adapting the house for a child, providing adapted baby care equipment, and hiring a personal assistant.

Child welfare agencies and state courts vary in the extent to which they actively prevent discrimination against disabled parents. The notion that disabled parents are unfit is a prejudice that pervades many spheres in society, including the legal system. Therefore, government actors often make determinations based on generalizations about certain disabilities.

Baltimore County Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Advocate for Disabled Parents

As a disabled parent, you are entitled to equal protection under the law. To learn more about your rights, contact a knowledgeable and compassionate Baltimore County child custody lawyer at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.

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