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Disabled parents risk losing child custody in Tennessee

Tennessee parents who have a disability are at greater risk of losing custody of their children than other parents. This information comes from a recently released report issued by The National Council on Disability, which is an independent federal agency that serves to ensure that the rights of disabled individuals are protected. The report finds that as many as 6.1 million children in the United States have one or more parent with a disability. A look at child custody statistics suggests that the disabled comprise a community of individuals whose parental rights are regularly threatened.

The 445-page report is believed to be the most comprehensive examination of the struggles of disabled parents ever undertaken. It asserts that the legal system in the United States is deeply flawed when it comes to protecting the parental rights of disabled persons. The report points out that in some states, courts are allowed to make a determination that a parent is unfit based solely on the parent's status as a disabled person. The authors of the report believe that the ability to terminate parental rights based on the presence of a disability is a direct violation of the intent of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

For those who have an intellectual or psychological disability, the risk of losing their child or children is even greater. The report states that parents with these types of disabilities lose custody of their children at rates as high as 80 percent. It is believed that in many cases where a custody question arises, the family would be better served by having access to programs that could address the needs of the disabled parent, rather than removing a child from a loving home.

Parents who have a disability and are faced with a child custody challenge should act aggressively in defending their parental rights. The first step is determining one's rights under Tennessee law, and making smart legal decisions that can work to retain those rights. Once a child is removed from the home, it can be difficult, stressful and expensive to regain custody. The best approach is a swift and competent legal response that can demonstrate that the presence of a disability is not a factor in one's ability to be a good parent.

Source:, "Disabled parents face bias, loss of kids: report," Nov. 25, 2012

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