Visitation Rights for Parents with Disabilities

Aug 26, 2011
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Divorce in the U.S. is very common. When there are children involved, it can get complicated. Child custody and visitation arrangements can be difficult and challenging. For individuals with disabilities, they may face additional challenges in these circumstances. A California mother and her parents are experiencing these challenges as they fight to prove in court that even severely disabled parents have the right to see their children.

Abbie Dorn became paralyzed following several medical errors in 2006, during giving birth to triplets. Don Dorn, her ex-husband does not think their children be allowed to visit their mother. He argues that spending extensive time with their motionless mother would be traumatic for the young children, and he believes Abbie has no chance of recovery.

Although, Abbie is unable to speak or move, her parents want people to know that Abbie is still able to hear and see; and that she can answer yes or no questions by blinking her eyes. According to the Los Angeles Times, a neurologist testified that Abbie can perceive sounds and images.

On behalf of their daughter, Abbie’s parents filed a lawsuit seeking visitation with the children and to establish that her disability does not negate her right to motherhood. A judge ruled in March, 2011, that Don must take the children to see their mother for five consecutive days once a year; and also ordered monthly conference calls with the mother and children using Skype. The judge said that, while it is more likely than not that Abbie will ever recover, it is important for the children to have contact with their mother.

These kinds of cases unfortunately happen too often. Parents with many types and varying degrees of disabilities have lost custody of their children or had their parenting abilities called into question solely because of a physical or mental impairment. Oftentimes, a disability is not a real hindrance to a parent’s abilities, but the existence of the disability is used as convenient ammunition in a child-custody or visitation battle.

If an individual has a disability, and are worried about maintaining relationships with their children, it is suggested to contact an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help to ensure an individual’s right to be a loving, involved parent is respected and enforced.

Author: Jenny Carlton