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Should illness be a factor in custody?

Every parent's greatest fear is losing a child. But, when a parent is ill and facing their own mortality, the fear may no longer be losing a child, but them losing you. The opinions vary greatly when discussing how much of the end of a parent's life does a child really need to witness. While some may think the best thing for a child is to remember their parent as healthy and vibrant, others may think shared support and closeness at the end is invaluable for both parent and child. So, what if an illness strikes in the middle of a custody battle? Should it be a determining factor in awarding custody?

Some cases covered in the news, have family court authorities citing reasons for considering the health of one or both parents when determining custody. While one parent may be facing a terminal illness, some believe custody should be awarded to the healthy parent so a strong bond can be created before the children have to live with them full time. However, parents that have faced illness and made a full recovery, often argue that it was the support of their families that got them through it.

While it is not the norm for the family court to use the health or impending illness of a parent to decide custody, many recent court cases have raised the issue of if it should be. Like most family courts in the nation, what is in the best interest of the child is paramount in a custody decision, but the final decision, however, always lies with the judge.

If you are facing a custody battle or are considering a modification to a custody order, a family law attorney may be able to help. With their experience and knowledge of the law, they may be able to advise you on what factors may play a role in determining custody.

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Goddard & Malmquist
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