Does Having a Disability Impact Child Custody in Tennessee?

A lot of factors go into determining child custody in Tennessee. However, when you are disabled or have suffered a disability, can that impact your child custody order? MHPS has the answers.

Disability Rights & Child Custody

In 2012, the National Council on Disability released the report, “Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children” which analyzed the ways that parents with disabilities faced extreme hardship within the court system when it came to child custody.

Though the Americans With Disabilities Act was meant to protect these Americans, many families were discriminated against. According to the report,

“Removal rates where parents have a psychiatric disability have been found to be as high as 70 percent to 80 percent; where the parent has an intellectual disability, 40 percent to 80 percent. In families where the parental disability is physical, 13 percent have reported discriminatory treatment in custody cases.”

For example, in the case of In re Marriage of Carney, a mother petitioned the court to modify the previous custody order between her and her ex after the children’s father sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in quadriplegia. The court sided with the mother saying that the father’s disability would impact the relationship he had with his children.

However, in an appeal with the California Supreme Court, it was ruled that the father’s disability did not make him an inadequate father as a parent-child bond was not merely the ability to engage in physical interaction. This landmark ruling shaped the way many family courts handled disability and child custody.

Disability Statistics in Tennessee

Under the 2017 American Community Survey, it was found that of those disabled Tennesseans

  • 13.7 % are aged 21 to 64 
  • 30.9 % are aged 65 to 74 

As this is a common age bracket for parents, it is likely that many of these individuals may have children. And, with Tennessee being the 10th highest state of divorces, it is likely that these individuals may face custody battles of their own.

Luckily, Tennessee is ahead of the child custody curve and has created laws protecting parents with disabilities from mistreatment in family court.

In 2013, Tennessee Senate Bill No. 749 was signed into law by Governor Haslam. The bill addresses the long-standing discrimination disabled parents have faced in custody proceedings. The bill states, “The disability of a parent seeking custody shall not create a presumption for or against awarding custody to such a party but may be a factor to be considered by the court.”

Because of this, the court must look at the full picture of the parent’s ability to raise a child, not one singular component.

Still, couples in custody court may try to leverage a disability to prohibit an ex from gaining custody. But we won’t let that happen.

Nashville Child Custody Lawyers: Disability and Custody in Tennessee

Your disability should not be used against you in your child custody hearing. However, if it is, you need a trusted family law attorney who can show the court the full picture of your parenting abilities.

If you are going through a divorce and need help with your child custody arrangement in Nashville, Springfield, or in Middle Tennessee, contact the child custody attorneys at MHPS today.

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