Parents With Mental Illness And Child Custody Battles

mental healthMental illness and child custody cases are a fairly common part of the divorce process for many couples.

Not only can mental illness impact the outcome of your case, but court cases involving mental illness can also be more expensive.

Parental mental health is very important to the overall well-being of the children. Parents with mental health issues should not be forced out of a child’s life just because of their illness, but children of parents with mental illness can face certain risks and it’s the court’s job to do what is in the best interest of the children. Therefore, depending on how the severity of the illness and how it is being treated, mental illness can be grounds for losing custody of children and one parent receiving sole legal and physical custody.

One aspect of divorcing someone with mental illness that makes it tricky to deal with is that each illness involves particular common characteristics, but also carries attributes unique to the individual. That makes a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing mental health and parenting issues impossible. That’s problematic because court orders tend to be more generalized rather than individually crafted to address the specific issues a mentally ill parent presents.

How to prove mental illness in custody case

It’s critical to let your lawyer know as early as possible in your custody battle that you or your spouse suffers from a mental illness, even if you only suspect it. Experienced family law attorneys will understand the impact mental health can have on custody and can help you prepare your custody case accordingly.

Early diagnosis is crucial. Even if your spouse has admitted that she suffers from mental illness or if you have seen her take prescription medications, it is still important to obtain an official diagnosis from a qualified mental health professional.

Some mental illnesses are also more difficult to prove than others. For example, Facebook pictures of your ex out partying can be helpful in proving alcoholism in custody cases, but other disorders have symptoms that are more subtle and challenging to show in court.

Generally, most states will not allow you to testify in your custody trial regarding what mental illness you think your spouse has. Although you can testify about her behavior or about things such as what medications you have seen her take, doing so isn’t guaranteed to result in the court recognizing that a mental illness is present.

There are two main alternatives to receive a mental illness diagnosis:

  1. If you’re familiar with a doctor who has previously treated/diagnosed your spouse for mental illness, or if you’re able to ask questions during discovery to reveal this information, you can subpoena both the treatment records and notes of the doctor subpoena the doctor to testify, or use similar techniques during litigation to ensure the diagnosis is entered for use in court.
  2. If you’re unable to find a doctor who has given a diagnosis, most states permit you to file a motion to have your spouse undergo a psychological evaluation to receive a formal diagnosis.

Although there are costs involved in subpoenaing a doctor or medical records, it is generally going to be much more expensive to obtain a psychological evaluation. Psychologists or therapists who conduct these types of evaluation for divorce or custody cases charge retainers before undertaking any work. This will usually set you back anywhere between $1,500 and $5,000 per evaluation.

There might also be a court-ordered psychological evaluation required for both parties and sometimes even the children. This adds significant costs since you are paying for multiple evaluations.

It’s best to consult with your attorney to analyze the cost versus the benefit of psychological testing so you make the best decision for your custody hearing.

Cordell & Cordell understands the concerns men face during divorce.

Choosing the right professional

Just as important as securing the diagnosis is ensuring you have the appropriate mental health professional to make the actual diagnosis and persuade the court that the diagnosis is legitimate. Not everyone who works in the mental health field is qualified to make a diagnosis of mental illness.

For example, licensed counselors and social workers have plenty of experience working with mental health issues, but they are typically not qualified to test or diagnose mental illnesses. Even if they are qualified to offer a diagnosis, their opinions must stand up in court through cross-examination or else their assessment is useless.

A psychologist’s or psychiatrist’s credentials alone are usually enough for a court to recognize them as an expert in the field of testing and diagnosing mental illness.

Another factor to consider is that judges can have differing opinions about mental health professionals. For example, some prefer a psychologist who works in private practice as opposed to those who spend the majority of their time conducting psychological evaluations for court proceedings.

Parents with mental illness should be upfront with their lawyer as they can help ensure that they’re getting the necessary treatment. If a judge sees that a parent is doing everything they can to treat their illness, they’re more likely to be more sympathetic when making a custody determination.

If you’re getting ready for a child custody battle while suffering from mental illness or concerned about your spouse’s mental health, contact a family law attorney to figure out the best approach to take in your case.

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7 comments on “Parents With Mental Illness And Child Custody Battles

    I just got rewarded temporarily custody of my daughter but have a up coming court date in a week. My wife has been hospitalized three times for ideas of killing herself and in three partial hospitalization programs for her bipolar. I am still afraid of the courts trying to say she can be alone with my daughter. Does anyone have experience of what to bring to court in NY. I don’t have enough money for a attorney unfortunately.

    if the child was of age to say who she wanted to live with, many states do age 12 i see this one did age 11, there is nothing anyone can do. not unless she changes her mind or turn 16 and runs away and decides to stay with you. in most states children can leave school, home or become kicked out of their own homes.

    I am one of the dads that is in this sad group that no one signed up for. I have to go to court at the end of the month to fight for “parenting time “/ “custody “ of our son. This is something l never thought could or would ever happen, as my sons mother and I always promised would never happen because we agreed that it would be potentially traumatic for him. But here we are.

    This all started at the end of July and has gone downhill from there. I always thought she would remember our many talks about protecting him and be civil. She cut all communication with me and took him without telling me what was happening or where he was. I thought “I’ll give her time. Give her space. “ then I received a notified letter in the mail telling me she is seeking full custody and support for our son I love and loves me. A love only a father and son can have.

    I am lost and don’t want to make things worse. I let her slide on many broken promises to enforce the thought that we were on the same side in not hurting him. Now we are in some kind of psychological called war.

    I don’t know what I really should do. I don’t want to hurt him through this but she seems to be intend on it. She looks to be understandably intent on it. I’m beside myself and my family is suffering. It’s hell. I could use prayers and advice.

    I actually that I was reading my old post at the beginning. I do not know your story, yet I can totally relocate to how and what you maybe going through. Don’t give in let them take everything but your love for your son and know he needs you in your life no matter what others are doing. Once it happens. You will have your life back with what matters, your son. Stay strong for your son.

    My wife had bipolor disorder. And I have been recording her with my phone for a very long time.
    Sometimes she freaks out and is like why are you doing this
    And then others she laughs.
    Can in use these recordings in.court?

    if you knew she had a mental illness why did you marry her? did you ever love her to begin with? many children develop different types of diagnoses due to their parents illness. do you really want to go down this road?

    I got custody of my daughter 12 years ago. My ex wife had had two CPS cases one of which her childerend where taken from her for about 6 months. Her husband was arrested for dealing drugs and sentenced to 10 years probabtion. He has also abused her and raped a 15 year old girl and got her pregnant when he was 23. He got away with it because neither the girl or her parents are willing to file charges. After my ex got her children back in dec of 2015 she filed a false affidavit getting a TRO that prevented me from getting my daughter after her 2016 summer visit. During the bench trial on 2 Sept 2016 my daughter who was only 11 told the judge that she loves both family’s and that she wanted to live with both parents. After being forced to pick one she made the biologically driven choice of her mother. My ex took the stand and said she had nothing bad to say about me or my current wife. I had a list of issues on top of the CPS and felony charges. Even though I meet none of the 3 requirements of 156.006 that would allow the judge to create the temporary orders that has the effect of changing the right to designate the residency of my daughter, she did it anyway. My attorney didn’t argue family code even after the judge asked if either attorneys wanted to. I fired him and hired a trial lawyer and demanded a trial by jury. This pissed the judge off and she forced me to pay the majority of the fees and set a trial date for a year later. A few days before my trial on 25 September 2017 she postponed my trial and has refused to set a trial date. My attorney will not file a writ of mandamus says hat the Tyler Courtnof Appeals will not honor it. He also says that they are looking at the middle of next year before going back. Please help

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