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Can child custody and visitation be based on intelligence?

The right to have a child and raise a family is one that is fundamental in American law. Few people even question their parental rights, and feel confident that if they provide a safe and loving home for their children, they will face no challenges to their ability to raise their kids as they see fit. There are cases, however, in which parents in Illinois and elsewhere have faced serious challenges to their child custody and visitation rights even when there is no evidence of abuse or neglect.

An example is found in a recent case in which a couple lost custody of two young children after state authorities determined that they were not mentally capable of providing sufficient care for the kids. The father receives Social Security checks for a mental disability, and has an estimated IQ of 66. The mother has been tested and assigned an IQ of 72. She was unaware of her first pregnancy until she went into labor and gave birth in her home, and believed that her discomfort was the result of a kidney condition. The average IQ ranges between 90 and 110.

In making the determination to remove the children from their parents' care, state authorities cited "limited cognitive abilities" that could have impeded the parents from providing a safe environment for the children. No evidence of abuse or neglect was presented, and the parents had multiple individuals supporting their right to raise their children. As it now stands, they have little chance of having their kids returned to their care unless their home state changes its laws.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for parents with mental disabilities to lose their child custody and visitation rights. For those in Illinois who face a similar custody challenge, it is important to take swift legal action to avoid a negative outcome. There is plenty of research to support the fact that disabled parents can raise happy and healthy kids. That research, combined with strong testimony and a carefully constructed legal argument can help keep families intact.

Source: deseretnews.com, "This couple may have lost custody of their kids because they weren't smart enough", Eric Schulzke, July 31, 2017

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Courtney, Clark & Mejias, P.C.
104 South Charles Street
Belleville, IL 62220

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