Court Case to Test Quadriplegia and Parental Fitness

Monday, January 04, 2010

A quadriplegic mother is at risk of losing her five-month-old son in a custody battle with the baby's father, who cites her quadriplegia as a reason to deny her custody. Should the courts be involved in such cases? If so, where does ADA regulation end and family law begin? Lisa Belkin introduces us to various custody cases involving parents with disabilities, and Dr. Corinne Vinopol, president of the Institute for Disabilities Research and Training and a hearing officer in disability disputes, shares her insights about parenting, disabilities, and the law. 

Follow along with New York Times' readers at Lisa Belkin's blog post on this story.


Dr. Corinne Vinopol

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer


Lisa Belkin

Comments [3]


One question is...why is the mother still the default? If the father was quadriplegic, would we even be having this conversation, or would they just assume the mother would have the child? I mean, if we are working so hard to try to give her custody in the first place, then aren't we implying that he'd be an unfit father?

I think we need more information before any of us can decide. For example, did they decide together that he would do the brunt of the work and now that they're split up, he feels it's only natural to still do the brunt of the work? Is it better for a child to be with the parent who can do most of the caregiving themself rather than relying on someone else (and let's not compare this to daycare--the parent is still responsible for most of the childrearing and duties like changing diapers, chasing an escaped child into the street, etc., even when using daycare)?

Jan. 06 2010 12:01 PM

A person with a disability like quadrapelgia is used to identifying and setting up the natural supports that they need for daily living--it's a skill you develop when you have a disability. It sounds to me like she is doing an excellent job of figuring out what supports she needs for herself and her child and putting them into place. The judges have probably never encountered a court case like this --but they need to understand that you do not deny custody on the basis that this or that "might" happen.

The dad better have pretty compelling evidence that would prove without a shadow of a doubt that she was an unfit Mother because having a disability does not make you an incompetent parent. It may in fact make you a much more compassionate, organized, innovative and cautious parent because those are skills you learn when living everyday with a challenge.

Jan. 06 2010 11:40 AM

Please, next time pick a case where there can be at least some ambiguity. I respect you less every time you air a persuasion piece like this one. The only way it could be worse is if the father were a homeless drug addict. Why couldn't you have arranged for that, as well?


Jan. 04 2010 09:04 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.