Mental Health Issues And Child Custody

As mental health issues become more widely recognized, more and more people are getting the help they need. If your ex is experiencing a mental health issue, you might need to step in and take action. This is a delicate and important issue so handling things carefully is important.

Communicate With Your Ex

Don't jump to the wrong conclusion before gathering the facts. Not all types of mental health issues make a parent unable to do their job.  Your ex probably loves and cares for your children and wants the best for them as much as you do. Sensitivity to the issue will make a difference in how things go. Discuss the issue with your ex and learn more about the way it's affecting their lives.

You should also learn more by asking general questions of your children if they are of an appropriate age. Never, however, shame or denigrate your ex for having a mental health issue. Keep the focus on ensuring that your children are safe when they are with them. You might want to consider consulting with a mental health expert for advice on the best way to approach your ex if you are having trouble with the conversation.

Get the Judge Involved

If you ascertain that your children are being cared for inadequately, speak to your lawyer about a hearing. Be ready to present evidence that your ex is not fit to care for your children. Just because they are diagnosed with a mental issue is not necessarily enough reason to have custody or visitation altered. However, your priority is protecting your children so bring the judge testimony, video, police reports, photographs, and more.

If the judge finds cause, they could make a temporary change in custody or visitation. That might mean that your ex can continue to spend time with the children but with no overnight visits. You might also consider asking for only supervised visits if the situation calls for that.

Serious Mental Health Issues

Unfortunately, some mental illnesses are not transitory. Long-term mental health issues can call for a permanent change in child custody and visitation. Again, however, be ready to present proof that the children are being harmed. That means they are not being cared for in these ways:

  • Being deprived of food, clothing, education, etc.
  • Being left unattended in an inappropriate manner.
  • Being exposed to dangerous conditions or people.

You should not consider removing your children from the care of your ex just because of a mental health condition. However, you also should not expose your children to unsafe conditions. Speak to a family law attorney to find out more.

Click here for more information on child custody and mental health.