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Child Custody And Visitation When One Parent Has Mental Illness

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Custody issues surrounding mental illness in one parent can be complicated in the state of California, and the courts take such accusations very seriously.

If you are engaged in a custody battle with a spouse who has shown signs of mental illness, you are probably very concerned about how this condition could affect his or her ability to safely and cogently act as a co-parent. Dealing with a sensitive situation like this definitely requires an experienced family law attorney in San Diego who can help you navigate California’s court system and protect the well-being of your children.

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What Is the Court’s Responsibility When Mental Illness Is Involved?

Courts already struggle to balance parents’ right to be present in their child’s upbringing with the need to protect the health and safety of the child. If one parent has been accused of having a mental illness of any sort, the process becomes even more complicated.

First, the court will need to accurately determine the nature of the mental illness. Such illnesses can take many forms: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more. The court will need to see a documented history of mental instability from the parent, whether in the form of a doctor’s diagnosis, medication history, hospital stays, or similar proof.

However, by itself, demonstrating a history of mental or emotional disorders is not generally enough to compel a judge to rule against joint custody. It is also necessary to show that the parent has been guilty of neglecting or abusing the child, or poses a significant danger to do so in the future. When making a decision, the court will look at medical records, treatment history, expert testimony, and any other relevant information that will help shed light on the parent’s ability to care for his or her children.

Another consideration when it comes to mental illness is when one parent suffers from addiction. This could be due to substance abuse, such as with alcohol or drugs, or another form of addiction, such as gambling. As we learn more about the nature of addiction, experts are beginning to classify addiction as a form of mental illness. Courts will definitely consider addiction as a factor when determining custody during a divorce.

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Can Custody Be Revoked After the Initial Decision?

In some instances, the signs of mental illness in your spouse may not become apparent until after the divorce is finalized. Perhaps there had never been any clear evidence previously, or the stress of the divorce led your spouse to act out erratically. Whatever the circumstances, the court will consider altering a custody arrangement if clear evidence can be presented that the child is in danger.

Likewise, if a judge initially ruled against joint custody while one parent was getting treated for mental illness, in the future, that decision may be revisited. The parent will need to show that whatever circumstance led the judge to rule against joint custody has been sufficiently addressed and that the parent no longer poses a danger to the child.

Whether you have dealt with mental issues yourself, or you are worried about the safety of your children because of your spouse’s instability, you need a family law attorney with experience handling sensitive cases. At Mattis Law, A.P.C., we provide our clients with the highest quality representation. Our San Diego child custody attorneys have a proven track record of success with even the most challenging issues. Contact us today at (858) 328-4400 to schedule a free consultation.

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