Custody and Mental Illness

The end of a relationship between two people is never an easy time.  The complications and challenges are compounded when the parties share children.  Woman in therapyWhen parties share children and they divorce or separate, a judge will make an order for parenting time and custody.  This order will be made after the judge carefully considers what is in the child’s best interest.  Minnesota law provides that a judge must look to a list of factors contained in the Minnesota code when making this decision.  The list is long, but the goal is that the court must protect the health and welfare of the child when determining what is in the child’s best interest.  When one of the parents has a mental illness, this can weigh heavily in that determination.

First, parents should remember that simply having a diagnosed mental condition will not automatically result in losing custody or parenting time with their children.  Millions of Americans seek professional assistance with mental health conditions, and this will not mean that they are unfit parents.  For example, a parent who has been diagnosed with depression and is taking medicine prescribed for that condition are not likely to see any ill effects in a custody order simply because of that.

Conversely, some parents have very serious mental health issues.  If the parent has a mental health issue that is so severe as to endanger the health and welfare of the child, then that will weigh in the court’s best interest determination.  The child’s emotional welfare is definitely a consideration in addition to physical welfare.  If a parent’s mental illness is so severe that he or she would resultantly put a child in danger, then a court may make an order restricting the parent’s access to the child.

A parent seeking to limit access or contact between a mentally ill parent and the children needs to understand that the law has a strong presumption in favor of making sure children and parents maintain a bond and have access to each other.  To that end, the burden will be on the parent attempting to limit that access to prove that continued contact between the mentally ill parent and the children will somehow endanger or damage the children.  This can be challenging, especially where the mentally ill parent has never been diagnosed as ill by a medical professional.

We have extensive experience helping our clients with all types of custody cases.  Call us today at 651-371-9117 and schedule a consultation to talk about your rights and responsibilities.