Can you lose custody if you have a mental illness?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Child Custody

Going through a child custody battle can be especially challenging if you have a mental illness – one in five Americans live with one form or another. If a parent struggles, how will this affect the child and the custody arrangement?

In Washington, like in most states, the child’s best interests always come first in custody decisions when parents decide to end marriage. Mental health can be a factor in the process. Still, it does not disqualify the parent, but it will influence the decision.

Mental illness does not disqualify a parent

Family courts in Washington do not automatically deem a parent with mental illness unfit to care for the child. Judges often consider several factors when determining your ability to provide care for the child safely and consistently:

  • Severity of the condition: If the condition is well-managed, it is unlikely to be a major hurdle. However, it could raise concerns if it interferes with daily life.
  • Impact on child’s well-being: Does your condition cause neglect, mood swings or violent behavior that may cause trauma in the child?
  • Treatment and stability: Actively seeking treatment through medication or therapy shows a commitment to your mental health and the child’s well-being.

The good news is the courts often encourage both parents to be involve in the child’s life unless extreme circumstances exist. In certain cases, the court may allow a parent supervised visitation or a gradual increase in parenting time as their condition stabilizes.

Commitment to being a good parent

Mental health concerns can make custody battles even more complex. If you prioritize your mental health, the court will not see it as a sign of weakness. Instead, it will show that you are committed to being a good parent.

So, do not be afraid to seek support from your trusted family and friends, therapists and social workers. An experienced lawyer can also help you advocate for an arrangement that prioritizes your child’s well-being and your ability to be a parent.