If you are going through a divorce and are also struggling with a mental health diagnosis, you may be concerned that your diagnosis could be used against you to interfere with your right to parent your child.
This fear is, unfortunately, rooted in reality. The rates for loss of custody of their children for parents with mental illnesses are in the range of 70-80%. In fact, two-thirds of children of parents with serious mental illnesses are reared by someone other than that parent.
How custody can play out in court when mental illness is involved
If your spouse decides to use your mental illness diagnosis to attempt to strip you of custody of your child, here are a few things to realize:
- Not all diagnoses are equal. A schizophrenic parent who is non-compliant with their prescribed medications and who experiences hallucinations could be a threat to their children’s health and well-being. This is a much different scenario from a parent struggling to manage their anxiety or who is suffering from mild or situational depression.
- Compliance with treatment plans can mitigate the circumstances. If your spouse wants to allege that your bipolar condition poses risks to the kids, your doctor and/or therapist can testify (or submit letters to the court) that you are fully compliant with all medication and counseling and are not a threat to your children.
- HIPAA laws apply, even in divorce. Your Wheaton family law attorney can object to your medical record being introduced into court because doing so violates your right to medical privacy.
In other words: Every situation is different. Your best move is to take your situation to your attorney and have a candid discussion.
How to take action when you’re worried about custody issues
Full disclosure to your attorney about your diagnosis, treatment plan and any other information that your soon-to-be-ex could reveal is very important. No attorney wants to be blindsided because their client was reluctant to reveal a potential obstacle to custody.