When Mental Health and Child Custody Collide in New Jersey Courts

Mental Health Challenges Are Common and the Court Will Focus on What is in the Best Interests of Your Child

The Role of Parental Mental Health in NJ Custody DeterminationsIn the U.S., 1 in 5 adults suffer from some type of mental health condition, with anxiety and depression leading the pack. Many of these conditions can be exacerbated by stressful experiences like going through a divorce or child custody dispute. If you find yourself in a custody battle and happen to suffer from a mental health condition, then you may be worried about whether your condition will impact the outcome of your case or whether your child’s other parent can hold your condition against you in court.

The answer is that it truly depends on the facts of your case, your condition, and its potential impact on your child. New Jersey courts make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. Just because you have some type of mental health condition like depression or anxiety does not mean that the court will weigh this against you, but the court will prioritize your child’s best interests over other considerations. So, depending on the severity of your condition, whether it is controlled by medication, and how it has impacted your child or could impact your child, your mental health condition could or could not impact custody arrangements for your child.

Spectrum of Severity for Mental Health Conditions that can Influence Custody in NJ

Really any mental health condition that may impact your parenting can be considered by the court in evaluating custody arrangements. Severe conditions like schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, bipolar disorder, or any other condition that diminishes your ability to control your behavior or leads to dangerous or unpredictable behavior will be very closely scrutinized. Now, that does not mean that if you have one of those conditions that the court will take custody of your children away from you, but in evaluating the best interests of the child, they will consider whether your condition will impact your ability to provide a stable and safe environment for your child.

Other mental health conditions like PTSD, depression, anxiety, and personality disorders will also be evaluated to determine if they affect your ability to parent or cause erratic behavior or extreme mood swings. Again, the court will look at the effects of your condition and potential effects of your condition when assessing the best interests of the child.

The severity of the condition is a significant factor considered by the court, as it can greatly influence the impact on the child. If a mild condition is well-managed and it does not interfere with an individual’s parenting duties or have an impact on the child, then it is less likely to have a negative impact on custody arrangements. However, if a condition is severe or an individual does not manage it well or consistently with necessary medications causing impairment to their ability to fulfill their parenting duties or creating an unhealthy and unstable environment for the child, then such circumstances could result in limited custody or, in extreme cases, supervised visitation

New Jersey Child Custody: When Do Parents’ Medical Records Matter?

Monmouth County NJ, Child Custody: When Do Parents' Medical Records Matter?Healthcare records can become relevant in a custody dispute if a parent wishes to prove their fitness and ability to provide a stable and safe home environment for their child or if another parent puts the other’s mental health at issue in the case. Courts will explain healthcare records to get a history of a parent’s diagnosis, treatment plan, and progress reports. Sometimes, if an individual struggled in the past with mental health issues but has significantly improved, they may cease care. However, if that parent’s mental health is at issue in a custody case, it is often beneficial to obtain an updated report, so that the parent’s progress or resolution of the condition is documented by a medical professional in their records.

Impact of Parent Compliance with Mental Health Treatment in Custody Cases

Whether a parent has complied with their prescribed mental health treatment and whether the condition is well-managed is also very relevant in a child custody case. Long term and/or consistent participation in therapy, following their medication regimen, and any other doctor recommendations help to demonstrate that the parent is responsible about managing and treating their condition, making it less likely in many cases that the condition would adversely impact the child.

Psychological Evaluations for Parents whose Mental Health is in Question

It is also possible that the court could order a psychological evaluation of the parent whose mental health is in question. This is even more common in cases where there is a lack of diagnostic and/or treatment reports in the parent’s current medical records. If the condition is new or no condition has been diagnosed, but other evidence indicates that the parent may have a struggle with mental health, then a court ordered psychological evaluation may be necessary to help to inform the parent’s fitness and the impact of their behavior on the child.

Mental Health Conditions Don’t Automatically Mean No Custody

If You Manage Your Mental Health Condition And It Doesn’t Harm Your Child, Shared Custody Arrangements Are Still Possible. Just because a parent struggles with some type of mental health condition does not mean that they will lose custody of their children. Shared custody arrangements are still possible if the parent can demonstrate that the condition is well-managed and does not adversely impact the child. Many parents struggle with mental health challenges from time to time and that does not necessarily make them any less capable of loving as parents. Again, the main priority of the courts is to determine the best interests of the child. When a parent’s mental health is at issue, this determination can be very nuanced and even evolving with time

Contact An Experienced Child Custody Attorney to Address Parental Mental Health in Your Case in Southern New Jersey

Whether you yourself struggle with a mental health condition and are involved in a child custody dispute or believe your child’s other parent has a mental health condition that affects their ability to provide a stable and safe environment for your child, these circumstances can impact the outcome of your custody dispute. A skilled and experienced child custody lawyer at Bronzino Law Firm can review the evidence in your case, including your medical records, make recommendations for additional evaluations, and create an argument to present to the court that demonstrates how this evidence informs the best interest of your child.

We invite you to set up a confidential free consultation with one of our knowledgeable family law attorneys today by contacting us at (732) 812-3102 or sending us an email. Our highly respected family law firm handles custody cases on behalf of parents, guardians, and others in Red Bank. Colts Neck, Point Pleasant, Manasquan, Beachwood, Toms River, Middletown, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and throughout Southern New Jersey.