Handling custody with parental mental illness

On Behalf of | May 9, 2019 | Child Custody |

Many factors affect custody arrangements, but none are more important than the fitness of a parent. Florida courts will want to know the details of the parenting plan, the children’s needs and the parent-child relationship before awarding custody. That said, the courts typically lean towards joint-custody because childcare experts have generally found that it is in the best interests of the children.

Since May is Mental Health Month, we thought it appropriate to discuss how such issues as depression, addiction or bipolar disorder can impact child custody disputes. Millions of Americans suffer from mental illness, so addressing this issue during divorce or custody disputes is common. Nonetheless, many try to hide it for fear of jeopardizing their access to their children, and others do not even realize there is a mental health issue. With the right treatment and counseling, many go on to productive lives as devoted parents.

How it impacts the judge’s decision

The judge’s priority is determining the best interests of the children. Mental illness can affect the parent’s ability to manage their life or handle the challenges of daily parenting. The court and the spouse will see red flags if this is the case and question your ability to fulfill your obligations.

Those suffering are best off not trying to keep a secret. In the best interests of their health and the well-being of the children, a mother or father is best off getting help. They can then present this information to their lawyer, the judge as well as the spouse. Important issues to address when doing this include:

  • Are the children safe?
  • What is the nature of the treatment?
  • Does the treatment have any negative side effects?

It is not uncommon for judges to take custody away, but it does not happen every time. Nor does a spouse’s accusation of mental illness make it so, but a judge may require the parent in question to seek treatment or fulfill certain obligations like sobriety or counseling.

Help yourself

Putting off treatment or denying a professional diagnosis is not in the best interests of the parent or the family. Conversely, the other parent should not assume they will get full custody because they think there is a problem. Those with questions or concerns about how mental illness will impact child custody should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. They often have experience with these issues and can provide solutions for the best possible outcome.

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