Can Mental Illness Impact My Child Custody Case?

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According to some estimates, around forty million people in the United States suffer from some type of mental illness. This includes many parents navigating divorce and child custody issues in Florida. If you or the other parent of your child suffers from mental illness, and you have questions about how this may impact your child custody case, the experienced and compassionate Boca Raton family law lawyers at the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg are here to help. Call the office or contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Mental Illness and Child Custody

Just because a parent suffers from a mental illness does not automatically disqualify them from having unsupervised access to the minor child(ren). However, a parent’s mental illness is considered as one of many factors when the court determines what parenting arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The judge in a Florida parenting case is required to look at the issue through the lens of what is in the best interests of the child. If a parent’s mental illness is minor, managed well with treatment, and poses little to no risk to the welfare of the child, it likely will not be weighed heavily against the parent. However, when mental illness issues are serious, untreated, and could cause harm to a child it could have a significant impact on a custody decision.

Child Custody Options

When one parent has mental health issues, there are many options at the court’s disposal when it comes to determining timesharing and parental responsibility (i.e., decision making). If there is a risk to the child’s welfare, the court may order supervised timesharing with that parent, the child, and a neutral third party like a social worker. Another option is to allow daytime timesharing but no overnight stays. The court may also order that the parent with mental illness undergo continuing psychiatric treatment or other counseling in order to continue seeing their child.

In cases where a parent’s mental illness causes a substantial threat to the child’s safety, the court may issue sole decision-making authority to the other parent. This means the other parent does not have a say in any decisions regarding the child’s upbringing or care. These determinations can be made as part of a divorce settlement, but they can also be requested in a modification to the parenting plan (child custody agreement). If mental health issues arise after a divorce is finalized, a parent can submit a modification petition to the court in order to alter the existing arrangement for the benefit of the child’s wellbeing if there is a concern about a parent’s mental health.

Talk to Our Office Now

If you have more questions about how a parent’s mental health may impact a child custody hearing in the Boca Raton area, call or contact the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg today to schedule a consultation of your case.


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