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A parent’s mental health and its impact on child custody

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Child Custody, Family Law

If parents are going through a divorce, it is highly likely that child custody is one of the most sensitive topics for them to address.

Whether they are divorcing amicably or whether there is significant tension between them, it is never easy to imagine a life in which you see your children much less than you did before.

It is important to understand how the courts look at a parent’s mental health and if it has an impact on the court’s decisions about child custody.

Best interests of the child

Family courts must prioritize the best interests of the child, which is a list of factors that determine what the court believes is the best custody arrangement for the child’s well-being, safety and happiness.

Likewise, courts understand the staggering statistics surrounding mental health. 1 in 5 Americans suffers from at least one mental illness. Chances are, you know someone who does or have one yourself.

With this in mind, the court considers a parent’s mental health as one factor among many, primarily looking at the whole picture. For example, a judge might want to know if the parent’s mental illness has an impact on their ability to raise the child.

Adherence to treatment

If the parent who lives with a mental health condition is under treatment, has medical care, is consistent in their adherence to their treatment plan, and the treatment works, the court may not look at this factor at all.

However, it is normal for the court to inquire about a parent’s mental state if the issue comes up. For example, it might request that the parent undergo a mental health evaluation, or it might want to see the parent’s medical records and hear their doctor’s professional opinion.


The important thing here is to show the court that whatever struggle you have gone through or are going through, is something that is under control and does not affect your children.

Family court judges are not out to take kids away from their parents. Courts want to see families together, but they have the unique responsibility of ensuring the safety, security and happiness of children involved in divorce.