Barbara J. Katzenberg, Attorney at Law
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When mental health can affect child custody

Numerous adults in Massachusetts suffer from mental illness. Such issues range in severity from minor depression to a total loss of reality. When a person's mental state limits his or her ability to care for him or herself, there is a need to question if he or she has the ability to care for his or her own children. This issue may be brought up during the divorce process if one spouse believes the other spouse's mental health status should affect the final child custody arrangement.

Millions of Americans live with mental illness and are able to live productive lives. They go to work, they socialize, they have families and they take care of their children -- among other things. Medication and talk therapy are extremely helpful to numerous individuals. Unfortunately, it is believed that the fear of losing one's children prevents some people from seeking the help that they need.

It is true that people with certain mental illnesses may lose custody of their children. It all depends on the severity of the illness and how it affects their relationship with their kids. In order for a court to decide if custody should be denied to a parent with mental health concerns, it will need to know:

  • What is being done to treat the illness
  • If the treatment has any negative side effects
  • If the illness puts the children at risk of injury

Having a mental health issue does not give the state or one's spouse the right to automatically refuse a child custody request. At the end of the day, it all comes down to parental ability and what will best serve the affected children. Massachusetts residents who have concerns about how their mental health status may affect their divorce and child custody arrangements can turn to legal counsel for guidance and assistance, seeking a parenting plan that truly fits their family's specific needs.

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