Is an untreated mental health issue putting your child at risk?

Mental health issues affect millions of Americans. While most of these individuals are able to live with little to no impact on their daily lives, others see tremendous upheaval in their day-to-day living on account of their mental health conditions. Sometimes these individuals lack proper medication management to appropriately address their condition while others simply haven’t been properly diagnosed. There’s also a subset of individuals who purposely choose not to seek out medical treatment for their condition.

Mental Health Issues Can Affect Your Child

Individuals are certainly free to choose if and how they want to address their mental health issues, but the fact of the matter is that these conditions often dramatically affect those around them, too. This is especially true when it comes to children. Untreated bipolar disorder, for example, can leave a child exposed to a parent who experiences swift mood swings that can be quite dramatic. A parent with this untreated condition can experience major depressive episodes as well as manic episodes. These can leave your child at risk of being abused or neglected.

It’s important to note that this is about much more than just thinking that your child’s other parent is over the top in the way he or she acts around you. You should stray away from thoughts that your child’s other parent is merely “crazy.” After all, this issue, much like all other child custody matters, has to be focused on how the issue at hand affects your child. You’ll get much further in your arguments if you couch them in those terms instead of appearing like your simply attacking your child’s other parent.

How to Protect Your Child

If you’re afraid that your child’s other parent has an untreated or improperly treated mental health condition, then you might want to take action to ensure that your child is safe. This may mean seeking child custody, seeking a custody modification, or trying to modify visitation.

But simply alleging that a mental health condition exists isn’t enough to justify a change of custody. In fact, many individuals successfully parent their children despite having a mental health condition. Therefore, in order to succeed in achieving a custody arrangement that you think is best for your child you need to be prepared to demonstrate to the court how the other parent’s mental health condition affects his or her ability to appropriately care for your child.

Gathering Evidence

To effectively do this, you need to gather evidence. This might come from statements that your child has made to you or a therapist, or it might mean gathering mental health records from your child’s other parent. A child custody evaluation might also be beneficial, as it gives an unbiased third-party the opportunity to review records and parent interactions in order to make child custody recommendations to the court.

Another option is to request that the court issue an order requiring some sort of evaluation in hopes that it will shed some light on the mental health condition at hand. These motions can be aggressively defended against, of course, which is why you have to have good reason for requesting it with evidence to support your request. Again, witness observations can be key here, as can the other parent’s demeanor during court hearings.

Know What’s Best for Your Child

Dealing with mental health challenges is difficult for everyone involved, including children. But you probably know what’s best for your child. So, if you think that restricting the other parent’s access to your child is in your child’s best interests, then you need to work to develop a legal strategy that supports your position.

That might sound easy enough, particularly if you’ve seen episodes that are indicative of an untreated mental health condition. However, there are often evidentiary issues that arise in these cases, and negotiations with these parents can be difficult. Therefore, to best protect your and your child’s best interests, it might be wise to discuss your situation with a family law attorney who truly knows how to fight for what is right.