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Making a case for child custody if you have a mental illness

Fortunately, mental health issues don't carry the stigma they once did. In general, it's much easier than it used to be for people to acknowledge that they have a problem and seek help. This can include therapy, medication or a combination of the two.

Perhaps your spouse was very supportive of you when you got help for your depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or another mental health issue. However, now that you're in the midst of a divorce, you're concerned that they're going to use it against you to limit your custody of your children.

If that seems to be their goal, they can't succeed simply based on a diagnosis of a mental health issue. If you are getting treatment, that will work in your favor.

The only time that a parent's mental health should impact their custody or visitation rights is if their condition impacts their children's health or safety or their overall ability to parent. If a parent has violent episodes -- whether they harm others or themselves -- that can certainly be a problem. If their condition causes them to neglect their children or to be unable to function on their own, their kids' well-being would likely be impacted.

You're less likely to have a custody issue if your condition never caused you to harm your children or place them in an unsafe situation. However, even if you did, if you can provide evidence that you are getting treatment, taking any prescribed medications as directed and that your symptoms are under control, you can build a strong case for at least shared custody of your children.

There are plenty of good parents who suffer from mental health issues. A parent who's getting help can be a far better mom or dad than one who's suffering silently with their condition or not acknowledging it at all. Remember that even if you don't get the custody you want immediately, if you remain committed to dealing with your condition, you can always seek to modify your custody agreement later.

Be honest with your attorney about your condition and your treatment. They can help you work to remain an integral part of your children's lives.

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Weinman & Associates, P.C.
8200 North MoPac Expressway
Suite 230
Austin, TX 78759

Phone: 512-472-4040
Fax: 512-472-4086
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