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Uphill Custody Battles Faced by People with Disabilities

Author: Legal Center of Jack L. Jaffe

Published: 2011-06-25

Synopsis and Key Points:

Individuals with disabilities commonly face additional child custody or visitation arrangements challenges.

Main Digest

The story of one California mother demonstrates the challenges people with disabilities face as her parents fight to prove that even severely disabled parents have the right to see their children.

The process of sorting out contested child-custody or visitation arrangements is almost always hard on families. And, individuals with disabilities commonly face additional challenges in these circumstances. The story of one California mother and her parents demonstrates these challenges as they fight to prove in court that even severely disabled parents have the right to see their children.

Fighting for Visitation

In 2006, Abbie Dorn was paralyzed following several medical errors during the process of giving birth to triplets. She was left unable to speak or move, but her parents insist that Abbie is able to hear and see, and that she can answer yes or no questions through blinking signals. According to the Los Angeles Times, a neurologist testified that Abbie can perceive sounds and images.

Even though Abbie was disabled bringing her children into the world, her ex-husband, Don Dorn, does not think their two boys and girl should be allowed to visit their mother. He argues that spending extensive time with their motionless mother would be traumatic for the young children, and he believes Abbie has no chance of recovery. But, after a visit in December, 2011, even Don conceded that the children indicated a desire to see Abbie again.

On her behalf, Abbie's parents filed a lawsuit seeking visitation with the children and to establish that her disability does not negate her right to motherhood. A judge ruled in March, 2011, that Don must take the children to see their mother for five consecutive days once a year and also ordered monthly conference calls with the mother and children using Skype. The judge said that, while it is more likely than not that Abbie will never recover, it is important for the children to have contact with their mother.

A Common Problem

Unfortunately, while relatively extreme, Abbie's situation is not unique. Parents with many types and varying degrees of disabilities have lost custody of their children or had their parenting abilities called into question solely because of a physical or mental impairment.

However, disabled parents do not love their children any less than other mothers and fathers. Although a disability can make mastery of certain parenting skills more difficult, people with disabilities are well-versed in overcoming obstacles. Oftentimes, a disability is not a real hindrance to a parent's abilities, but the existence of the disability is used as convenient ammunition in a child-custody or visitation battle.

If you have a disability and are worried about maintaining your relationship with your children, contact an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help ensure that your right to be a loving, involved parent is respected and enforced.

Article provided by Legal Center of Jack L. Jaffe - Visit us at www.jackljaffe.com

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