Putting You In Control During A Difficult Situation

  1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Firm News
  4.  » How a parent’s mental health can impact child custody

How a parent’s mental health can impact child custody

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Firm News

When parents go through a divorce or separation in the state of Ohio, one of the most important issues they face is who will raise the children. In these cases, the court’s primary goal is to ensure the well-being and safety of the children involved.

One factor that can potentially significantly influence the court’s decision on child custody is the mental health of the parents. Below, we explore why this is and what the court looks at when evaluating a child custody case.

The best interests of the child

In Ohio, as in most other states, family courts make custody decisions based on a list of factors named “the best interests of the child.”

This list is not necessarily 100% specific or exclusive, yet it is meant to guide the court in making decisions that are best aligned with the well-being of children.

For example, some of these interests include:

  • The child’s happiness
  • The child’s health
  • Where the child feels most secure
  • The child’s mental health
  • The stability of the parents
  • The parents’ ability to provide

As you can see, the court considers many factors. If the child is old enough, the judge may ask the child if they have a preference, too. That preference is not the only factor the court will consider but it is one factor that it will take into consideration.

Does mental illness disqualify a parent from custody?

No, mental illness is not an automatic disqualifier. However, the court will want to know more and will possibly ask the parent who has the mental health condition to provide concrete information that shows the court what their day-to-day reality is like, so the court can make a well-informed decision.

When things can go right

In some cases, for example, if a parent who suffers from depression has been under treatment for years and the illness does not seem to affect them or their ability to parent their children at all, the court may not consider that a problem or issue to consider as a “factor.”

When things can go wrong

However, if the court sees a parent storm into the courtroom late, clearly under the influence of drugs and alcohol and unable to express themselves clearly and address the court respectfully and eloquently, the judge might absolutely intervene and make arrangements that protect the child from that parent.

Even so, the court’s role is not to separate families. Family courts wants families to be together. However, judges have the obligation to ensure the safety and security of children involved in divorce because they are not old enough and do not have the authority to speak for themselves.

Lawyers of Distinction
Attorney And Practice Magazine's Family Law Attorney Top 10 | 2018
American Institute of Trial Lawyers | Litigator of the Year 2019