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Parents with mental illness and child custody

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Child Custody, Divorce, Family Law |

Divorce is a difficult time for everyone. When children are involved, it is often more challenging, and if the parents do not get along and have different opinions about who should have custody of the children, Texas family courts often have to get involved to help make the best decision for the children.

Child custody and mental illness

What happens if one parent suffers from a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, and while that parent is receiving effective treatment, the other parent wants to have primary custody on the basis that they believe the other parent is not able to care for the children because of their mental illness?

Texas law prioritizes the well-being of the child and considers many factors when deciding matters of child custody. If one of the parents suffers from a mental illness, the court will consider it one factor among many others, and the weight it gives to the factor of mental illness will depend on the severity of the illness and how it impacts the child’s stability and well-being.

It is critical to understand if the argument that the other parent is making comes from just wanting to win, gaining leverage over the parent who suffers from mental illness, and perhaps even wanting to hurt them, or if they are sincerely concerned about the children and their concerns are justified.

Unfortunately, sometimes parents will use their children as pawns to gain leverage over the other parent. Doing so may cause great harm to the child and the relationship between the parent and the child.

“Best interests of the child” factors

In Texas, if the court gets involved in decisions involving child custody, it will consider the mental illness that the parent has as one factor and will likely inquire into the matter further. For example, the court may want to know what treatment the ill parent is undergoing and whether it is effective.

Mental illness, is just one factor that the court will take into consideration when deciding matters of child custody. If the parent who is ill demonstrates that they are seeking treatment, following medical advice and creating a stable environment for the child, the court may not place a lot of weight on the factor of mental illness.

Document everything

Whether you are the parent suffering from mental illness or a parent who is concerned about their child spending time with the other parent alone because of the other parent’s mental illness, it is important to maintain documentation, provide all evidence and communicate with your attorney immediately.

These issues are especially sensitive in divorces and can trigger feelings of anger or helplessness in the parents. You may find an important consideration in choosing your legal representation would be to have an experienced, Board-certified Family Law expert attorney to help you navigate the divorce, including the issue of child custody, in order to achieve a result that is in the best interest of the child.