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Modifying custody agreements when your ex has a mental illness

Not every child custody agreement is final. Parents who believe they should spend more time with their children or that their ex is unfit to look after them can revisit the agreements later onto make some changes. However, they require sufficient reasoning to convince the court to alter the initial custody placements.

While some reasons are more straightforward such as one parent having a better income than before, others can be more complex. Mental illness is an often-discussed controversial topic that could determine who your child goes with. If your ex demonstrates symptoms of strong mental illness such as bipolar disorder or depression and it is affecting your child’s development, you should know how to modify your child custody agreement.

Convincing the court

The most difficult part you have in this process is trying to prove that your ex is no longer mentally fit to raise your child. If you heard from your child any times that the other parent suffered from severe mood swings and put them in danger when they were away from you, you can use some of these instances in your case. Extreme behavior could include abuse, abandonment, suicide attempts or drug and alcohol abuse.

Your ex’s medication can play a large role as well. If you knew your spouse was taking treatment to maintain their mental stability during their marriage, then the repeated signs of mental illness after your divorce could be a sign that they have stopped taking it or that the stress of being a single parent is too much.

The court may also bring in a licensed psychologist to determine if your ex’s mental condition is unfit to raise the child. Each psychologist has a set of child custody guidelines they follow to ensure that the evaluation will be as fair as possible.

Making the modifications

The court will judge the situation based on the severity of the ex’s mental illness and if there have been any significant changes since the original proceedings. If you were lacking in income prior to the modification and still have the same job, it can hurt your chances of modifying the agreement successfully. Regardless, California courts mainly base the case around the best interest of the child. If they determine that your ex has mental disability or shows severe signs of a mental illness from their life circumstances or medication, their likelihood of losing custody significantly increases.

While it is difficult for your child to no longer see their other parent that often anymore, you have to keep in mind what is best for them. Mental illnesses may not be present for a long time, but if your ex starts demonstrating some signs, you should file for a custody modification as soon as you can. As this can be an emotionally difficult period for all parties involved, you should consider hiring a family law attorney to help you prepare your case to ensure that your child is raised properly.

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O'Brien Family Law, PC 

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