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Parental Mental Illness in Child Custody Cases

Published: Jan 21, 2020 in Child Custody
Parental Mental Illness in Child Custody Cases

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

Mental illness affects many parents and is often something that people are afraid to talk about. However, mental illness can be managed well with proper treatment. If you have a mental illness you’re probably wondering if it will impact your rights as a parent. And if your child’s other parent has a mental illness, you are likely concerned for your child’s welfare when in their custody.

Custody cases can be impacted by mental illness. If you are involved in a custody case where mental health is an issue, you need Attorney Anthony Piccirilli who has experience handling similar cases and who are able to ensure you and your child have your rights completely protected. Make an appointment with Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC today by calling (412) 471-5100 now.

What is Mental Illness?

The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as a health condition that involves changes in emotions, thinking, or behavior, or a combination of these. Almost one in five adults in the U.S. experience some kind of mental illness each year.

Mental illness encompasses a wide range of conditions that can be very mild or very severe. Some examples include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, addiction, and schizophrenia. They are all vastly different and each has its own symptoms and treatments.

How Does Mental Illness Affect Parenting?

A parent’s mental illness, like any health condition, has some impact on children. The impact differs greatly depending on the type and severity of the mental illness, as well as how successful the treatment is and how dedicated the parent is to working with their health care providers. In most situations, a diagnosed, well-managed mental illness has less detrimental impact on a child than a mental illness that has not been diagnosed and treated.

Impact of Mental Illness on Custody and Visitation

Child custody and visitation in Pennsylvania is determined based on what is in the best interests of the child. State laws includes a list of factors the court can consider in the best interests analysis and one factor is the mental health of any of the parties (parent or child) involved in the case. Having a mental illness does not automatically disqualify a parent from being awarded custody or visitation.

If a parent has a mental illness, the court will want to know the details, including:

  • Diagnosis and severity
  • Prescribed treatment
  • Whether the treatment requires frequent hospitalizations
  • How well the parent is following the prescribed treatment
  • How well the treatment is working
  • Whether the condition presents a danger to the child
  • Any situations involving abuse or neglect that can be traced to the illness
  • How the illness and its symptoms impact the child

Doctors and therapists may testify or provide documentation. The court might also order a parenting evaluation to determine what the parent-child relationship is like. The court will weigh all of the facts and decide what is best for the child based in their unique situation. Some very common mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression may have little or no impact on the custody ruling at all, while a more severe mental illness that is not yet responding to treatment could sway the judge.

Custody Outcomes with Mental Illness

The type of parenting plan the judge decides on will depend on the specific details of your case. A mental health diagnosis could result in any of the following:

  • No impact at all if it is mild or well-controlled
  • Legal custody with the other parent
  • Primary physical custody with the other parent
  • Limited visitation
  • Supervised visitation
  • A requirement to continue treatment

Contact a Child Custody Attorney Today

Mental health is an important part of overall health and seeking treatment benefits both the parent and the child. If you are facing a custody and visitation case that involves parental mental health conditions, you need attorneys ready to fight for your rights. Call (412) 471-5100 to make an appointment with Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC to discuss your case.