Mental Health Myths in Child Custody Cases: Debunked!


J. Benjamin Stevens 

Mental health is often a topic that is misunderstood, and this is especially true in child custody cases. Many myths about mental health circulate among the general public, and these myths can sometimes have a negative impact on child custody cases. In this article, we will debunk some of the most common mental health myths and how mental health issues are really handled in child custody cases.

Myth #1: If you can prove a parent is “crazy”, they cannot get custody of the child. 

This is simply not true. A parent’s mental health is only one factor that a court will consider when making a temporary or final custody determination. The court will consider what is in the child’s best interests, which includes each parent’s ability to care for the child and many other factors. In today’s world of mental health awareness, simply saying that a parent has a diagnosed mental health issue will not be enough to deny custody of, or even require supervised visits for, the children. The judges who preside over family court regularly deal with families who have all kinds of struggles, so unless it’s clearly provable that a parent’s mental health issues are directly and negatively affecting the child, it is unlikely that issue will (in and of itself) dictate the outcome of the case.

Myth #2: Parents with mental health issues are more likely to abuse their children.

 While it is true that parents with certain types of mental health issues may be at a higher risk for abusing their children, this does not mean that all parents with mental health issues are or will become abusive towards their children. In fact, many parents with mental health issues are able to provide a loving and safe home for their children, especially when they are actively seeking treatment and properly managing their mental health diagnosis.

If a parent’s mental health is raised as an issue in their child custody case, the court may order a mental health evaluation to get a better understanding of the parent’s mental state and how it might impact their ability to care for their child. These examinations can be expensive, and scheduling with the right expert can take some time. However, it’s possible that even when the final report is received, it fails to make any diagnosis at all. Therefore, you should discuss with your attorney whether to make allegations about mental illness unless there are legitimate concerns that could affect the safety or well-being of the parties and children involved.

Myth #3: Mental health issues are always permanent and will never go away.

 This is not always the case, as our understanding and treatments of mental health issues have come a long way in the last few decades. We now know that mental health is often just as treatable as other health-related issues, especially when experienced mental health professionals are involved in the treatment process. Even if a particular diagnosis is not considered “curable”, parents should always remember that in most cases, they made a choice to start a family together, and the effect of losing contact with a parent on the child could be far worse than any effect of having to learn to be a supportive family member of someone who is mentally ill.

Mental health, regardless of which family member(s) it affects, should never be used as a weapon in your child custody cases, but unfortunately, it often is. If you have legitimate concerns about these issues, you should thoroughly discuss them with your attorney, along with any evidence you may have as to how they have affected your family and your children. Allow the attorney to advise you on what issues should be raised with the family court and which issues may backfire if you refuse to try to find a way to amicably work out a solution that meets the needs of your family.

Final Thoughts

 Mental illness can negatively affect child custody and visitation arrangements, but only in cases where it is proven that the mental health issue directly impacts the parent’s ability to care for their child in a safe and healthy manner. In most cases, mental health is just one of many factors that the court will consider when making a child custody or visitation determination. If you have concerns about your children’s safety, it is important to discuss them with your attorney so they can be properly addressed in your case.

If you’re struggling with issues surrounding child custody or need help finding the best ways to build a cooperative parenting agreement with your co-parent, talking with an experienced family court attorney will help. If you’re in South Carolina, contact a trusted family law attorney like Ben Stevens today to discuss your specific situation. Mr. Stevens has provided exceptional legal counsel and support to families throughout South Carolina for over twenty-five years, handling all matters of family law, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce, separation, alimony, and child custody. Our firm is well-equipped to handle all divorce and family law matters, no matter your circumstances. Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule an initial consultation.

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The post Mental Health Myths in Child Custody Cases: Debunked! first appeared on Offit Kurman.

Originally Published At The JD Supra Platform