The Impact of a Parent’s Mental Illness in a Child Custody Matter

At the center of every custody dispute, there is a child. Deciding what will be the best parenting plan for children can be both challenging and stressful which is why we encourage clients to be honest about their capacity throughout the entire process. By hiding or diminishing a mental illness or capacity problem, parents can put their children at risk. Some common risk factors include behavior problems, substance abuse, anxiety, attention deficits, social problems, and cognitive problems.

Parents need to be open and honest about their current and past diagnoses and discourage guarded representations of their problems. Parents should not avoid treatment for fear that it will be used against them in a custody dispute. In fact, compliance with treatment and the other measures that ensure the treatment’s effectiveness will not only help mitigate the impact of mental health issues on children but give that parent’s claims greater weight.

Some resources to consider to facilitate recovery are psychotherapy, psychoeducation, medication management, substance use monitoring, parent coaching, high conflict co-parent classes, family therapy, reunification therapy, and modification of parenting access, e.g. supervised parenting time.