Luke v. Luke: A Child Visitation Case in Which a Disabled Parent Depended on a Child for Care
Courts must base their decisions about child custody and visitation on the best interests of the child without placing undue hardship on either of the parents. When both parents are healthy and live within commuting distance of each other, agreeing on and adhering to a visitation schedule is fairly simple. Parents simply specify as part of the parenting plan which parent is responsible for transporting the children to and from visits; they can also agree to share the transportation responsibilities or assign this responsibility to another relative who is willing and able to do it. When one parent lives out of state, though, visits can be costly and require a lot of planning; if only one parent is healthy enough to transport the children, the situation becomes increasingly complicated. If you have questions about out-of-state visitation, or if your parenting plan is placing undue hardship on you because of your disability, contact a Tennessee child custody lawyer.
Details of the Luke Case
Joseph Luke married his wife Pamela in Florida in 1970, and their daughter Rebecca was born in 1972. Pamela had suffered from Friedreich’s ataxia since she was young, but it began to affect her mobility after Rebecca was born. The couple divorced in 1976, and both spouses remarried and moved out of state, Joseph to Alabama and Pamela to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. By 1981, Pamela had divorced her second husband and was living alone with Rebecca; they had no other relatives in the area. Pamela’s disease had progressed to where she was using a wheelchair. She was able to work and to drive a specially equipped car, but she needed Rebecca’s help to dress, bathe, and get from her bed to her wheelchair.
In 1981, Joseph petitioned the court to allow Rebecca to visit him in Alabama for a week at Christmas. Pamela responded that it would be too difficult for her physically and emotionally to be away from Rebecca for such a long time. Instead, she proposed that Joseph come to Tennessee and spend several hours each day with Rebecca; in fact, he came to Tennessee with his family for the holiday, and Rebecca spent part of each day with her father, stepmother, and stepsister.
The following year, Joseph appealed the arrangement and again requested to have Rebecca spend Christmas with him in Alabama. The appeals court ruled that the previous arrangement was based on Pamela’s best interests and not Rebecca’s. It ruled that Rebecca should travel to Alabama to spend Christmas with her father. Meanwhile, Joseph should pay for a home health aide to care for Pamela during the days Rebecca would be in Alabama. It recommended that a guardian ad litem be appointed for Rebecca, because she needed a neutral party to represent her interests.
Contact an Attorney Today for Help
The children’s needs come first, but child custody and visitation arrangements should be fair to both parents. Contact Knoxville child custody attorney Patrick L. Looper for a consultation.