Don’t ignore your own health issues; Stay healthy to preserve your right to custody
In virtually every state, the physical health of the parents is one of the factors which the court must consider before determining who gets custody of a child. A parent’s health is indeed an important consideration: A disabled parent may not be able to tend to a child’s needs or to assist in the event of an emergency involving the child.
Physical health can encompass many different conditions: Permanent or temporary disabilities; ordinary illnesses that come and go; diseases that affect body function; infections that may be contagious; and other handicaps. Deteriorating physical health can also be the result of obesity, heavy smoking, excessive drinking, reliance on painkillers, anti-depressants and other sedatives, and lack of sleep.
Of course, a parent is not less entitled to custody rights because he or she suffers from an illness, a disease or a disability. The question is whether the physical condition adversely affects the parent’s ability to care for the child. Has the parent evaluated his/her actual limitations? Has the parent adapted to household conditions and events? Can he/she manage the disability under changing circumstances?
The family courts across the country have awarded primary custody to parents suffering from everything from arthritis to multiple sclerosis. The question isn’t so much what the disease in question is (or how bad it is), but rather what effect the disease or disability has on parenting and on the best interests of the child. A parent who suffers nothing worse than the common cold, but who seems to be suffering so frequently and continuously as to suggest an unhealthy and infectious household, may be more of a concern in a custody proceeding than a parent who is paraplegic and wheelchair-bound.
If you’ve encountered health issues that have the potential to interfere with your custody or parenting time activities, be sure to act affirmatively to preserve and to maximize your physical health. Follow medication regimens and keep your doctor’s appointments. Maintain proper diets and follow other medical instructions to stay healthy. As always, keep good records about your own personal health care. A non-compliant parent who ignores her own physical health represents an opportunity for the other parent to seize upon in a child custody dispute. There’s simply no good reason to ever make that opportunity available.