We often hear from parents who have been driven to the margins of their children’s lives because their disability/partial disability is being used to deny them custody or visitation. Fathers and 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 California Senator Rod Wright’s (D-Los Angeles) SB 1188 to address this problem.
Disability Rights California’s Advocacy Director Margaret Johnson, Esq. and I co-authored column Senate bill would protect rights of disabled parents (Los Angeles Daily News, 8/18/10) laying out the case for SB 1188. The Daily News is Los Angeles’ 2nd largest newspaper, and our piece was the lead op-ed. In it we wrote:
Currently under the laws relating to child custody, a disability can be used as a reason to deny custody or visitation. This can lead to unnecessary and expensive litigation, even in cases where the parent with a disability had been successfully parenting the children for many years prior to a separation or divorce.
Nationally, one in six parents is disabled. They’re poorer on average than nondisabled parents, and their ability to fight long, expensive court battles to defend their relationships with their children is limited.
Timothy Sayre, a San Diego father of three, hopes that SB 1188 will help parents like him. Sayre’s three children were moved out of state by their mother in 2002 but, as part of a visitation agreement, they always spent their summers with Sayre. Sayre became disabled almost two years ago, and spent much of this spring battling to maintain his summer parenting time. After a difficult court battle during which his disability was used against him, Sayre lost some of his parenting time. He says:
“I use a wheelchair but I can still parent my children. My time with my 14-year-old daughter was cut way back, and I lost time with my sons, too. Not only should I have not lost this time, but I shouldn’t have had to fight this battle to begin with. Do my children love me and need me less because I use a wheelchair?”
To read the full column, click here.