The legislation Fathers and Families initiates and/or supports is often drawn directly from the experiences of our members. At Fathers and Families we often hear from parents who have been driven to the margins of their children”s lives because their disability/partial disability has been used to deny them custody or visitation.
Tim, a San Diego father of three, was one such parent. Tim”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 him. Tim 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, Tim lost a great deal of parenting time with his children. He told us:
“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?’
Maria, a Southern California adoptive mother who suffers from multiple sclerosis, shared 50-50 custody of her 12-year-old daughter with her ex-husband, until he refused to allow Maria access, claiming Maria was too disabled to care for her. Maria told us:
“I have a physical disability but I have been an exemplary mother. It is devastating for both parents and children to be wrenched apart by an ex-spouse seeking an unfair advantage in a divorce.’
After a lot of heartache, Maria did get her daughter back under the original 50-50 parenting schedule.
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.