F & F Bill to Protect Disabled Parents’ Child Custody, Visitation Rights Passes Assembly, Senate

Fathers & Families’ mission is to protect children’s right to the love and care of both parents after divorce or separation. We often hear from disabled or partially disabled parents who have been driven to the margins of their children’s lives because the other parent has used their disability/partial disability as a pretext to deny them custody or visitation with their children.

While some disabled people are truly unable to care for their children, many are not. California Senator Rod Wright’s (D-Los Angeles) SB 1188 will address and help solve this problem. Fathers & Families has joined with Disability Rights California, one the nation’s largest and most respected disabled advocacy organizations, and the American Retirees Association in co-sponsoring SB 1188, which passed the Senate in May and has now passed the Assembly.

Fathers & Families has helped garner the support of the Family Law Section of the State Bar of California, the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, AMVETS Department of California, and others for SB 1188.

Existing California family law codes do not address the issue of disabled parents, leaving the door open for unnecessary and often expensive litigation, even in cases where the disabled parent had been successfully parenting the children for many years prior to the separation or divorce.

SB 1188 will add Section 3049 to the Family Code. It will read:

3049.¬† In any proceeding to determine child custody or visitation under this part, in which at least one parent is disabled, the disability of that parent may not form the basis for an order granting custody or visitation to another party, or for an order for imposing any condition or limitation on an award of custody to or visitation by the disabled parent, unless there is a finding by the court that¬† a grant of custody or visitation to, or a condition or limitation on custody or visitation by, the disabled parent would not be in the best interest of the child. This section applies to any proceeding regarding custody or visitation, including, but not limited to, a request for a modification of an existing order for custody or visitation…

SB 1188 shifts the burden of proof onto the parent who raises the disability as an issue, serving as a deterrent to a parent seeking to raise the issue as a way to cause unnecessary litigation. It also reduces disabled parents’ litigation costs and helps reduce court calendar time and costs at a time when California is struggling with budget woes.

If you are a disabled parent, we want to hear from you–please fill out our form here. If you have a family law problem or feel that your disability has been used against you, please also fill out the last two boxes of the form.

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