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Does a parent’s mental health influence the court’s decision on custody?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2024 | Child Custody, Children & Divorce, Divorce, DivorceFamily Law

When families go through the process of separation or divorce, children are the most important consideration because their health and happiness come first.

Children do not choose to divorce. They are innocent parties who become collateral damage in the dissolution of a marriage.

In Massachusetts, like in many other states, the way the courts determine what is best for the kids is using a list of factors called “the best interests of the child.”

A parent’s mental health

What happens when one or both parents have a mental health condition?

This is a common question because one out of every five Americans lives with a mental illness. These staggering statistics have made this a common issue in family courts, which have developed processes to oversee situations like these.

Not a disqualification

First, it is critical to emphasize that a parent’s mental challenges are not an automatic disqualification from their right to spend time with, raise or decide for their children.

The court acknowledges that, like any other illness, individuals can manage mental health challenges with proper treatment and support. The question is how this mental health issue affects the child and what the parent is doing about it.

Factors the court looks at

The court will want to know if the parent’s mental health challenges impact:

  1. Safety and stability
  2. Consistency in care

Besides these, the court will probably inquire into the parent’s mental health records or get a professional opinion to ensure:

  1. Medical compliance
  2. The parent has a support system

If you are a parent who lives with a mental health condition, the best way to support your case is to seek treatment, remain consistent in that treatment to manage your condition, and document everything, so you, through your attorney, can present evidence of your parenting to the court.

Ensure you have a dedicated support system, be as candid as possible with your attorney and the court, and provide the judge with anything they ask for if they ask for more information.

Mental illness is only one aspect of a person’s life and, in my cases, it does not have to be a factor that negatively affects custody decisions at all, so long as the parent is treating their mental health condition and can show the court that the child is safe, in a stable and happy environment for them to grow and thrive in.