Child custody can be complicated for disabled parents

Most custody cases are battles waged between parents, each wanting a greater share of time with their children. In some cases, however, a child custody case is between a parent and the state. When disabled parents face a child custody challenge, they are often at a disadvantage in the eyes of the court, in Florida and elsewhere. 

An example is found in the case of an attorney who has faced her own custody battles in her state of residence. She lives with mitochondrial myopathy, which is a type of muscular dystrophy that confines her to a wheelchair and requires her to use a ventilator to breathe. Even so, she's adopted four children from the foster care system.

The woman has faced multiple child custody issues over the years and has been reported to child protective services several times. The basis of those reports was concern that she is unable to care for her children due to her disability. She claims that she is uniquely qualified to parent her kids, as they all also have disabilities. At one point, she was turned in for insisting that her teenage daughter, also confined to a wheelchair, manage to get herself from her bus stop to her home. That parenting choice, likely intended to teach self-reliance, led to a call to state authorities.  

Despite multiple legal challenges, she has been able to keep her children and raise them as she sees fit. She also works as an advocate for disabled parents, helping them to fight the state and keep their kids at home. Her child custody journey serves as an inspiration for parents in Florida and across the nation who live with disabilities and who struggle for recognition of their capabilities. 

Source:, "Parents With Disabilities Face an Uphill Battle to Keep Their Children", Robyn Powell, Jan. 3, 2018

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