Postponed due to technical issues. New date TBD
September 23, 2020, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EDT
Presented by M. Debra Gold and Georgia Lord
Continuing Legal Education Credit Available
Parents with physical disabilities often face unique obstacles in getting and retaining custody of, or even visitation with their children due to stereotypes and ill-founded assumptions about their parenting abilities.
In making custody and parenting time decisions, the court applies the best interests of the child standard. When one of the litigants has a physical disability, however, the Americans with Disabilities Act should also come into play. Many family court judges and lawyers are unaware of the importance of applying the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act in these cases, both to avoid unlawful discrimination against parents with disabilities, and to reach more accurate, better-informed determinations as to the best interests of the children. Ensuring that all parents have equal access to parenting opportunities and fair treatment in family courts promotes the best interests of the children.
Competent representation requires building an understanding of the client’s disability and how the client and children have adapted and managed. The focus should be on effectively demonstrating how the court should weigh the parent’s capabilities against their limitations – and consider them in the context of the other party’s capabilities and limitations.
Attorneys must be able to ensure that custody and visitation decisions are based on objective evidence and are appropriately tailored to the unique needs of the family. Counsel must recognize and counter stereotypes, assumptions, and biases about parents with disabilities.
Georgia and I will discuss what family law attorneys need to know when representing clients with physical disabilities in custody and parenting time disputes. Parents with mobility, sensory, and other physical disabilities face a host of problems in family courts, all too often rooted in implicit biases and unsubstantiated assumptions about their fitness and ability to parent. Counsel are often unaware of the supportive services, and equipment that may facilitate their client’s parenting abilities. The panel will discuss these, and other important considerations and strategies to avoid being blindsided by a custody decision maker’s unfair and unsupported broad leaps to conclusions.
We will review these and other key issues:
- How can counsel best confront and undermine bias about the fitness of parents with disabilities?
- What strategies may be helpful in presenting the client’s custody case?
- How should a parent’s disability weigh into custody and visitation decisions?
- How can attorneys prepare their client’s custody case (and their client) for trial?
- What should or should not be included in the final orders?
- What steps should counsel take to check themselves for bias about a client’s disability, and better inform themselves regarding their client’s capabilities?
After our presentations, we will engage in a live question and answer session with participants so we can answer your questions about these important issues directly.
Please join us. Register through this link, and receive a 50% discount!