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How mental health can impact court decisions

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2024 | Child Custody |

When it comes to child custody matters in Kentucky, many divorcing parents wonder if health issues, including mental health, can affect court decisions. This topic often causes parents to fear sharing health information with their attorneys.

However, it is critical to be as forthcoming as possible with those who advocate for you, so they can come up with individualized strategies to better help you and your case.

Commonality of mental health

It is crucial to understand that mental health is something many people deal with. It is becoming something as common as having asthma and certainly losing the stigma once associated with it.

Statistics show that about 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience mental illness each year. If you or your co-parent are dealing with mental health challenges or if one party is trying to use the other party’s mental health challenges to gain more custody, you are not alone.

Child custody battles can easily become highly emotionally charged, to the point where some parents will do absolutely anything to get more custody or pay less child support. While it is an unfortunate fact, it is a fact that family law attorneys see every day.

The court’s focus

The court’s primary concern is the well-being and best interests of the child. Health issues, including mental health, can be considered, but it is not an automatic deal-breaker. Courts recognize that many individuals successfully manage their mental health conditions and are loving, capable parents.

The above leads to a two-pronged question regarding a parent’s mental health challenges and their ability to meet their child’s needs:

  • Is the parent treating their mental health challenge?
  • Do these challenges impede the parent’s ability to provide for the child mentally, emotionally and physically?

Relevant factors

While mental health challenges are not an automatic deal-breaker, the court will consider several factors if mental health challenges in the parent come up:

  • Parenting abilities
  • Safety and stability
  • Consistency of care

As you can see, the court’s focus is on the best interests of the child and will look at anything that relates to the child’s welfare, from the care they receive to the environment they live in and the conditions in which they live.

In addition, the court will want to know more about the parent’s mental health challenges. Is the parent diagnosed, and are they undergoing treatment? How long have they been under treatment, and has it been effective?

Evidence to support that any mental health challenge is under control and that the parent can function as close to normal as possible is important, and if this issue comes up in your case, ensure you proactively gather all necessary documents to support your claim that you have dealt with your mental health challenges and continue to do so.

In addition, make sure you understand the meaning of the best interests of the child under the law and discuss them with your attorney if necessary so you can be prepared to answer questions if asked.