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Mental illness and child custody: What to know

On Behalf of | May 23, 2024 | Child Custody

Child custody disputes are always emotional, and they can turn otherwise calm divorce proceedings into something deeply chaotic. This is especially true when there are allegations that a parent’s mental health issues make them either unfit to parent or an actual danger to their child’s well-being.

Whether you’re raising this allegation against your co-parent or your co-parent is raising the allegations against you, it’s important to understand as much as you can about how the court may view situations involving a parent’s mental illness so that you know how to react.

It’s all about the best interests of the children

Custody decisions always require a court to consider what may be in a child’s best interests. Because of that, one of the primary concerns about a parent’s mental illness is the parent’s ability to effectively care for their children. 

The court may consider evidence of how the parent’s mental illness affects their ability to provide a stable, nurturing environment for the child, meet the child’s emotional and physical needs and make sound decisions regarding their upbringing.

That being said, not every mental illness is going to be treated the same – nor is every situation the same. If, for example, your spouse says that your anxiety and depression make you unable to be a good parent, but you’re in treatment, taking your medication, working or caring for the children full time and there’s no proof that you are neglectful, their allegations will likely fall flat. 

Similarly, you may have a difficult time getting the court to see things your way if your spouse has a serious personality disorder that affects their ability to parent – especially if they deny any problems, have never sought treatment or been formally diagnosed, and the children aren’t obviously suffering in their care. 

This does not mean that you are helpless in this situation, no matter what side of the allegations you are on. With the right legal guidance, you can take a strategic approach that will help reveal the truth of the situation and protect both your children and your relationship with them.