Mental Health of a Parent in a Custody Case

As child custody lawyers in Westchester County with offices in White Plains, New York we handle countless child custody, visitation, relocation and grandparent custody/visitation cases. A legal issue during a custody case that can present is the mental health of a parent. When this issue is presented it is important to have a full understanding of the various mental health issues and the seriousness of the mental health issues. Our child custody lawyers are always looking for any legal strategy to obtain our client's goals and it is usually necessary to discuss or defend against mental health allegations by a parent.

This blog is designed to provide an outline for parents involved in a custody case where an issue is the mental health of a parent. The blog also discusses how the Family Court views various mental health issues and mental health findings when making a determination of custody.

A parent's mental health is one relevant factor for a court to consider when making a custody decision. A finding of mental illness or emotional instability of one parent neither mandates an award of custody to the other parent nor precludes the "mentally ill" parent's active participation in the parenting process. The mental illness condition must render that parent unfit to exercise custody. This is determined on a case by case basis.

For example, the Family Court in New York found that an award of joint custody was inappropriate where both parties had psychological problems and the court found that both parents were unable to put aside their differences for the good of the child. The mother had been voluntarily hospitalized for depression and an attempted suicide and the father suffered from borderline post traumatic stress disorder. The court had both parents attend and complete psychological evaluations to determine what parent should be the custodial parent. The court found that custody should be awarded to the father as the mother was manic-depressive, routinely stopped taking her medication and even her own psychiatrist felt she should have supervised visitation.

It is generally accepted by the New York Family Courts that the parents in a contested custody case put their own physical and mental condition at issue. The Courts are within their discretion to require that both parents and the child undergo an impartial mental health evaluation. This is also known as a "forensic report" or "mental health report". The mental health report is generated and provided to the court and the attorneys for the parents.

Additional examinations may be ordered by the Family Court upon a showing that the prior examinations were inadequate or that subsequent behavior of the parents raised new issues as to the child's social, emotional or moral welfare.

Mental Health Reports

The mental health report can be used by the Family Court to help determine which parent should have custody. The top custody lawyers will critically review each report to determine how best to use a mental health report in court for their client's benefit. It is common for a court to direct attorneys not to allow the parents to read the mental health report but usually the attorneys can discuss the substance of the report with their clients.

Call our Custody Lawyers Today

If you or a loved one is involved in any family court litigation including a dispute over child custody and an issue of mental health is involved, call our law office for a free consultation. During the consultation we can discuss your options and how our office can help your specific case.

Our lawyers have decades or experience handling countless child custody cases with various mental health issues. We are aggressive attorneys who always make ourselves available to help you.

Call us today (914) 946-4808