Mental Health Issues in Custody Cases

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In recent years there has been a sharp increase in accusations of mental health issues in child custody cases. Parents who have a history of any mental health diagnosis are often faced with attacks based on their condition when requesting custody. What impact does having a diagnosis actually have on your case?

Mental Health Diagnosis on the Rise

Mental health conditions have been on the rise in recent years. The past decade has seen over a 13% increase in mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders worldwide.

Mental health conditions can have an impact on all areas of life, such as school or work performance, relationships with family and friends and ability to participate in the community. The ability to care for a child and provide a safe, healthy, environment can certainly be impacted.

The Best Interests of the Child

As with any custody case, a judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child standard, found in Virginia Code 20-124.3. One of the initial factors for the court to consider is the physical and mental health of each parent. The fact that a parent has a mental health diagnosis in and of itself is not a determining factor for custody, but it can certainly be relevant to the court’s decision.

If a parent has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), it will likely come up in court. Being prepared to address the claim is the first step to overcoming any issue.

Presenting your Case

Judges care about whether a mental health condition has an impact on the child – consider if there is any history of safety concerns or if there have been negative effects to the child at any time.

The court will want to see a parent taking a proactive role in his or her treatment. What has been the treatment history? What medications is the parent taking? What steps are they taking to ensure the child is not impacted?

Depending on the case, it may be important to involve a care provider or another expert to testify in the case. Presenting evidence from an expert will weigh more heavily with the court and can help refute negative claims made by the other side.

If a parent has taken active steps to treat their condition and has been behaving responsibly with respect to the child, the diagnosis will not likely weigh heavily in the case. For example, consider a parent who was diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as a teen or young adult – who has been taking mediation and working with their condition for a number of years before having children. The fact that they have a diagnosis will not be a major consideration for the court in this scenario.

About Melone Hatley, P.C.

If you are facing a custody case and you have a mental health diagnosis, it’s time to get counsel. The top-rated attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. are here to help! Melone Hatley, P.C. is a family and estate firm serving Virginia Beach, Richmond, and Northern Virginia. Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about child support, contact our Client Services Coordinator at 1-800-479-8124 or book your appointment online.

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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