A Marine veteran who lives in Onondaga who returned from the Iraq war now battles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is fighting to win custody of his young son. This case has possible implications for other veterans who are seeking modification of child custody agreements. Another question the case raises is the role of Veterans Administration medical professionals in testifying in child custody battles. The VA has decided not to permit the man’s doctor to testify in court in the case.
The veteran says that his child brings him a measure of peace. He added that he takes responsibility for his son and doesn’t have bad days when they are together. However, the boy’s mother expressed her nervousness that there could be a problem if something were to trigger her ex’s PTSD. Both agree that the Veterans Administration doctor’s testimony could be key in the case.
One family lawyer who has studied the implications of PTSD believes that the only time when PTSD should affect a child custody decision is if the child’s well-being is impacted negatively. While she admits the seriousness of the affliction, she doesn’t think PTSD would mean an individual would be able to parent effectively.
The family court has two considerations in cases like this one. The first is to protect the well-being of the child. The second is to preserve the rights of both parents as much as possible, with respect to the best interests of the child. As PTSD affects between 100,000 to 300,000 veterans in the United States, the issue of VA testimony could possibly influence many child custody cases.
Source: Syracuse.com, “Syracuse-area veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder fights to keep his 2-year-old son“, Douglass Dowty, November 14, 2013