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Should terminal illness be a factor in determining custody?

Courts typically look at what is in the best interests of the children when a couple is getting divorced. Child custody issues can become a big source of contention if both parents feel they are better suited to care for the children. But how does a judge decide which parent should get primary custody?

Right now, one of the bigger stories about a child custody dispute involves a woman who was denied custody because she was diagnosed with cancer. Though there were other factors influencing the judge’s decision, many are wondering whether sickness should be considered when determining custody.

The mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had primary custody of her two children but lost primary custody when a judge determined the children should live with their father, her former husband. As a result of the ruling, the children will have to move across the country, relocating to where their father currently lives.

The custody battle was full of allegations that the mother was not cooperating and that both were subjected to domestic violence. But despite the details of the divorce and custody battle, the news of the woman’s fight to keep her children created a stir among parents everywhere.

Some parents are worried that they may lose custody of their children due to illnesses. Should a terminal sickness be a factor against a parent’s ability to be a good parent? Is it beneficial for children to be apart from a sick parent or does it actually harm them?

In custody cases, the judge will often take into consideration physical health to the degree that it affects the parent’s ability to parent the child. But for a woman who lives for her children, is it fair to take them away from her?

Source: Los Angeles Times online, “Woman’s cancer a factor in complex custody case,” Julie Deardorff, 04 June 2011


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