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Parental mental illness and child custody in Alabama

On Behalf of | Feb 20, 2024 | Blog, Divorce |

When parents decide to get a divorce, one of the most sensitive topics is the custody of the children. While every case is different, many times parents quarrel over who will get more time with the children.

Sometimes people fight because they legitimately want to spend time with their kids and other times because of other factors involved, such as child support.

Mental illness

One out of every five Americans lives with a mental illness. This means you probably know someone who has one—or maybe it is you. It is much more common than people think and it comes up in divorce cases all the time.

First, it is critical to know that mental illness does not automatically disqualify a person from being a good parent or meeting their child’s needs.

However, the court can inquire into these concerns because its role is to ensure that the needs of the child are met. That means a child’s physical, emotional and mental needs. Children should live in a happy and healthy environment.

View of the court

The court must ensure that children are safe and protected. When a parent’s mental illness comes up, the court may inquire further into this. It may ask the parent with the mental health condition to provide additional information to understand whether it affects the child negatively or not.

If a parent’s mental illness does not affect their ability to parent their child well, according to the court, it may not be an issue at all.

Here is what the courts look at:

  • Safety of the child
  • Stability of the child and their environment
  • The parent’s mental health treatment
  • The child’s wishes, if they are old enough
  • Many other factors

Alabama courts look at the entire picture before deciding. If a child is old enough to express themselves maturely, the court may ask them for their thoughts. This does not mean the child decides—it simply means the court takes the child’s desires into consideration.

For example, if the child is old enough and mature enough to address the court and they describe their life with one parent as unstable because of their parent’s mental illness, the court may take that into consideration.

What to do if this is you

It is key to seek treatment and remain compliant with your doctor’s orders if you are a parent struggling with or living with a mental illness.

Showing the court that you have your condition under control is one of the most important determinant factors in cases like these.

In some cases, especially high-conflict divorces, a parent will make all sorts of accusations about the other parent, including allegations of inability to parent due to mental health issues.

Stay ahead of the game

To stay ahead of this, ensure you document everything. Keep records of your treatment, medication, and doctor’s visits.

If necessary, ask your doctor to write and sign a statement of facts giving their professional opinion on your mental illness as it relates to your ability to parent.

Show stability by remaining emotionally composed at all times and not reacting to your spouse’s attacks.

It is also important to get legal help from a family law attorney who understands what you are going through and can guide you through this process. They will advocate for you, your rights and ensure that your truth is what the court sees.