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Can a parent’s mental illness affect custody?

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2022 | Family Law

A parent’s mental health is one of the factors Maryland judges will consider when deciding custody conflicts. Since custody decisions are made focusing on the child’s best interests, a parent’s mental stability can play an important role when it comes to a child’s safety.

Mental illness and a parent’s ability to take care of their child

When a parent struggles with a mental illness, it might make the parent incapable of properly caring for their child and can even lead to neglect or abuse. This might be exacerbated if the child’s primary caretaker is the parent with the mental illness. Because of this, courts might reconsider their parenting ability and decide to deny custody to that parent. Mental illness itself might affect the parent’s decision-making and might even affect them physically, such as when the parent has a reaction to their medication.

Other factors that the court will consider

However, when the court is determining how a custody case should be resolved, it does not only look at a parent’s mental illness. Some of the other factors it considers include:

  • Each parent’s ability to care for their child and meet their needs
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment
  • Each parent’s age and physical health
  • The bond between each parent and the child
  • Evidence of past abuse or neglect on the part of either parent
  • How the child’s life might be affected by the custody decision

While the parent’s mental illness is not the only thing to determine loss of custody, statistics show that when a parent has a mental illness, the risk of losing custody is higher. This sometimes drives parents who struggle with mental illness to hide their condition and avoid treatment but doing this can worsen the situation and put the children in danger.