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Should IQ be a consideration in child custody matters?

There are many reasons why a parent may find themselves fighting to retain their parental rights -- either because of a divorce or allegations of abuse or neglect. However, there are reportedly many parents who find themselves fighting for their child custody rights even when they do not pose a danger to their children. There may be families in South Carolina who face these difficult situations simply because they suffer from intellectual disabilities.

One couple has been fighting for their son for the past four years. They purportedly came to the attention of the Department of Child Protective Services when an acquaintance claimed that the father was unable to recognize when the days-old infant was hungry or soiled. The report also alleged that the father almost rolled over onto the child when the two were lying on the floor together. CPS removed the child and are in the process of attempting to terminate the parental rights of the couple.

The case stems from the fact that both parents scored below average on IQ tests. The supposed normal range for an IQ is between 90 and 110. Both parents scored several points below that threshold. The report also included allegations that the parents were ill-prepared to care for an infant based, in part, on the fact that the mother was unaware that she was pregnant until she was in active labor.

The couple recently had another son. That child was removed from the couple's care just days after his birth based on the previous open case, even though the couple was fully prepared to provide for the infant's needs. Ironically, the father was deemed fit for jury duty during the time that they have been fighting to regain custody.

It is estimated that approximately 80 percent of intellectually challenged parents lose custody based on their purported disability. In most cases, no evidence of abuse or neglect exists that would require removal of a child under normal circumstances. There have been efforts to prevent agencies from denying these parents their child custody rights based only on lower IQs as long as parents are capable of meeting the needs of their children. South Carolina parents who are fighting for custody or visitation rights for their children under similar circumstances may seek the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

Source: Inside Edition, "Parents With Intellectual Disabilities Share Heartbreak of Losing Custody of Their Children", Deborah Hastings, Nov. 17, 2017

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