How does mental health affect custody decisions

On Behalf of | Jun 7, 2023 | Child Custody |

Divorce is messy, especially when you have children. However, it gets more challenging when one or more parents have a mental illness.

This is how mental illness can impact child custody decisions.

The best interest of the child

In most custody cases, judges focus on providing a living situation that is in the best interests of the child. Judges consider financial, physical and emotional stability. Mental health can impact a child’s best interest, and judges may require an evaluation prior to ruling on custody.

Factors judges consider

Family court judges may consider several factors when they consider whether a mentally ill parent should gain custody of a minor child. First, they should consider whether the illness results in behavior that could or has harmed the child. They may question whether the illness will get worse and whether treatment will help eliminate the symptoms.

Judges will likely ask these parents if they receive or will willingly seek help. They may also speak with children to determine what they know and understand about their parents’ illnesses as well as whether and how often they saw mental health episodes in their parents.

Loss of custody

Parents can lose custody and parental rights under a few circumstances. However, they likely have to be unable to provide and care for their children. Abuse due to mental illness may also result in a loss of custody.

Conditions like PTSD, anxiety and bipolar disorder do not automatically result in loss of parental rights or lack of custody rights. The condition’s severity and its impact on the children are the primary focus. Judges also want to see parents seeking treatment.

Parent-child relationships significantly impact custody decisions, but most family law judges will focus on what is best for the children.