Recently on our forum we had a claimant ask if getting SSDI or SSI disability benefits would impact their child custody arrangements. The question really goes to the heart of how the courts determine child custody and whether or not your mental or physical health condition has become so severe that you are now unable to sufficiently care for your child.
How do the courts determine Child Custody?
Generally the courts have several factors they will evaluate prior to determining child custody during a separation or after a divorce. The most important factor in almost every state is what the court considers “in the best interest” of the child. But determining the best interest will require the courts to evaluate many factors including:
- The ties between the parent and child. The court will consider how attached the child and parent are to each other emotionally.
- Whether either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence.
- The age of the parents and the child.
- What the child and the parent each desire.
- Whether or not each parent is willing to support the relationship of the child with the other parent.
- Which parent has primarily supported the child up to this point
- Whether both parents can provide a safe, stable and supportive environment for the child.
- The physical accommodations of each parent and whether it is safe for the child.
- How custody would affect the child’s ability to attend their school and continue their community involvement.
- How the child would react to a disruption in their current living arrangement.
- Each parent’s ability to support the child financially.
- The physical fitness of each parent.
How will my SSDI or SSI disability payment affect my child custody arrangement?
Now to address the claimant’s question. Let’s assume that you have been disabled for years and you have adequately been able to care for your child, receiving SSI or SSDI payments in and of themselves do not sufficiently prove that you are no longer able to care for your child, in fact, under some conditions, getting monthly SSDI cash payments and good medical care may improve your ability to care for your child.
But let’s review another scenario. Let’s say that you were caring for your child but you were in a very serious car accident which left you paralyzed. You may now be unable to work for at least 12 continuous months, and due to the severity of your condition, your ability to parent your child may be compromised.
In this example you may now qualify for SSDI or SSI but that would not necessarily be the primary cause that you lost custody of your child. The courts would consider your health condition and your functional limitations rather than the payments themselves.
If you have started getting SSI or SSDI disability benefits and your ex-spouse or partner questions your ability to care for your child they may be able to challenge the custody arrangements by contacting the court. Under these conditions you would want to talk to a family law attorney about your options to maintain custody.
- Child Custody – Will I Get Full Custody? (divorceattorneyhome.com)
- Drunk Driving and Child Custody (duiattorneyhome.com)
- Assigning a Representative Payee for Disability Benefits (disabilitybenefitshome.com)