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How mental illness can impact child custody

Even though we as a society are far more open and understanding about mental illness than we were in the past, there's still a stigma around it. Parents suffering from mental illness too often don't seek the treatment they need out of fear that they'll lose custody of their children.

Of course, the severity of mental illness varies greatly. However, it's been estimated that only a third of children who have a parent who suffers from a serious mental illness are in the custody of that parent. These parents are more likely to lose custody if there isn't another competent adult in the home.

A diagnosis of mental illness alone is not enough to remove a child from a parent's care. It's the symptoms of the disease and sometimes even the effects of the medication the person is taking that can become factors if they're determined to make a parent neglectful or abusive.

There are services and support systems for parents suffering from mental illness to help them continue to have custody of their children, provided that they can raise them in a safe and healthy environment. In fact, losing custody of one's children can exacerbate a person's mental illness. Therefore, if a parent can safely maintain custody, it's often best for everyone.

Parents suffering from mental illness can improve their chances of keeping their children by developing a self-care plan to manage their illness and working to improve their parenting skills. Mental health advocates provide services to help these parents and even work to allow children to be able to visit parents who are hospitalized when appropriate in order to help them maintain the parent-child bond.

Florida family law attorneys can help parents who are suffering from mental illness work to maintain custody or visitation rights to their children if they're able to do so safely. Further, if you have a co-parent whom you believe is not able to safely care for your children due to a mental illness or other issue, your attorney can help you work to protect them.

Source: Healthy Place, "Parents with Mental Illness and Child Custody Issues," accessed Oct. 28, 2016

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