The human body is a pretty incredible piece of machinery, but – just like any other piece of machinery – it can break down. You can get hurt or sick without any kind of warning.
If you’re a divorced parent, could your illness or injury cost you custody of your children?
It’s not a cut-and-dried question
Like every other state, Virginia decides custody based on whatever may be in the best interests of the children. The court may consider the age, physical and mental condition of each parent (among other factors) when allocating custody initially or during a modification hearing.
That being said, here are some of the factors that may come into play:
- Is your condition temporary or new? Unless your injury or illness is catastrophic, it would be premature for a court to immediately determine that you’re incapable of parenting your child until you’ve had a chance to recover.
- Are you able to remain in your home? If you’re confined to a nursing home or a rehab facility for an extended period of time, the court is likely to treat that very differently than when you’re recuperating at home.
- Is your illness or injury actually negatively affecting your parenting skills? Every situation is unique. Can you demonstrate that you’re still able to meet your child’s basic needs despite your illness or injury?
- What’s the age of the child involved? An infant, toddler or preschooler is going to require more parental care and direction than someone at high school, for example.
- Does your illness or injury somehow damage your child’s mental or emotional health? If you’re suffering from an uncontrolled mental illness, for example, you may be unintentionally inflicting trauma on your child.
- Do you have any support system at home? If you live with your child’s grandparents, a new spouse, other relatives or have a nanny, you may be able to manage to parent just fine.
Finally, there’s the ultimate question you should ask: Is your child’s other parent likely to make an issue of your situation? If not, you probably have nothing to worry about. If so, then you need experienced legal guidance right away so that you can protect your precious parent-child relationship.