If you’re a parent with a physical disability, you’ve probably encountered numerous people who are amazed that you’re able to take care of your child. You’ve never doubted your ability to keep your child safe and well, whether your spouse was there or not.
Now that you’re divorcing, your ability to parent is being called into question – even by your co-parent. They may be seeking full or at least primary custody. Whether they’re doing it to get back at you or because they really believe that you can’t parent alone, even in an equally shared custody situation, you’re going to have to prove yourself to a judge to get the custody rights you’re seeking.
The parenting assessment
Likely, the court is going to order that you undergo a parenting assessment. Courts order these assessments for all sorts of reasons. They’re done by a variety of professionals, but you’ll want an evaluator who has experience with parents who have disabilities.
Your family law attorney can help ensure that you receive a fair evaluation from a knowledgeable person. Your attorney may also benefit from consulting with a disability rights attorney for this phase of the divorce.
A support system is key
No parent can do it alone – with or without a disability. You’ll want to show the court that you have a support system. This can include services provided in your community for parents with disabilities and family and friends who can help you if needed.
It likely also includes adaptive equipment (which you may already have) to help you care for your child. You may need to show the evaluator that you and your child are both comfortable with this equipment.
Even though you’re probably focused on proving that your disability doesn’t affect your ability to be a good parent, don’t forget to emphasize your strengths and attributes. Maybe you can’t shoot hoops with your child, but you have other talents and skills you can share with them.
A family court judge is going to be looking at what’s in the best interests of your child when making a custody decision. Your attorney can help you show that remaining an integral part of your child’s life is in their best interests.