Protecting The Rights Of Disabled Parents In Arizona
In over 35 states across the nation, parents can lose rights concerning their children because of disabilities, even with no evidence of abuse or neglect.
Until this summer, Arizona was one of those states. However, a law that went into effect in August now protects blind Arizona parents and prospective parents and may offer hope to parents with other disabilities.
A National Problem
According to AZCentral, the practice of the state Department of Child Safety regarding blindness in parents was not available before the new law took effect, and it was unknown if any parents in Arizona had lost their children due to blindness. However, cases in other states gave parents a reason for concern.
In Missouri, one newborn was taken from her blind parents for two months after they were reported by a nurse. Another blind mother in California spent two years and $33,000 fighting for custody rights for her daughter over concerns about her ability to care for the child after a divorce. And a blind woman in Colorado had to take a fertility clinic to court over their refusal to serve her due to concerns that her blindness posed a threat to any future children. None of these cases included any indication of abuse or neglect.
With 37 states holding on to laws that allow a disabled parent’s rights to be infringed, and cases like these bringing the issue to light, it is only reasonable that parents would be concerned about the systems used by their own state to determine if they are fit to care for their child. Many tasks a parent faces remain unchanged for blind parents, and others can be easily addressed with a little creativity and planning.
Senate Bill 1198
After approval earlier this year by the state legislature and Governor Doug Ducey (R), Senate Bill 1198 went into effect on August 3. This law changes existing language in the state laws regarding custody, adoption, and other issues for legal guardians or caretakers. The new language not only forbids the state from deeming blindness alone as an unfit condition, it requires any rulings where a child is removed or denied to include a written explanation and places the burden of proof on those who seek to argue that a blind parent or potential parent is unfit to care for a child.
The law only specifically protects blind parents; it does not address deafness or any other disabilities. However, it is a step in the right direction, and it gives disabled parents a possible foothold to argue for broader protections or defend their rights in court.
The actual effects of this law on parents have yet to be seen, and it is very important to have a lawyer who is well-versed in the law and deeply invested in parental rights. For more information on your rights or how we can help you defend them, contact us today.