Can You Still Get Custody Of Your Children In A Divorce If You Have Bipolar Disorder?


If you suffer from bipolar disorder, will it cost you custody of your children? Many people who suffer from the condition live in fear that their illness will be used against them if they seek a divorce. If this is your situation, here's what you should know.

Having Bipolar Disorder Doesn't Mean You Can't Be A Good Parent

More than 5 million people in the U.S. are affected by bipolar disorder, many of them parents. However, having a mental illness doesn't mean that you can't be a good parent - or win custody.

What matters to the court is how well you are able to fulfill your responsibilities as a parent, and how well the disease is currently under control. Bipolar disorder can often be well managed with ongoing treatment, including medication and therapy. So, even if you've struggled with the symptoms of the disease in the past, don't assume that you'll be refused joint (or even primary) custody simply because of your history.

What If Your Spouse Raises Your Disorder As A Factor For Evaluation?

The odds are very good that your spouse will raise your bipolar disorder as a factor that needs to be considered when custody is being decided. However, you can vastly improve the situation for yourself by considering it an opportunity to prove to the court that your condition isn't detrimental to your parenting abilities - any more than if you were diabetic!

With that in mind, be prepared to:

  • provide proof that you are currently receiving treatment and are compliant with it
  • be open and honest about your condition with the court
  • submit to a mental health assessment if the court requests it

The more willingly you address the court's concerns about your condition, the easier it will be for the court to see that your condition is under control, and keep this from becoming the focal point of the custody dispute.

What To Expect From A Mental Health Assessment

Generally, you can expect to meet at least once with a psychologist for an evaluation. He or she may also administer several different psychological tests that are designed to give the evaluator more information about you. The psychologist used by the court has to be independent, not someone that has previously treated you, your spouse, or your children.

Sometimes the evaluator will be chosen by the court, and sometimes you'll be permitted to choose your own evaluator, or from a list of several evaluators. The court may not order an evaluation just for you - in many instances, the court will order both spouses to undergo individual psychological evaluations. This can actually give you an advantage, because it may reveal emotional or psychological issues in your spouse that would otherwise go unaddressed during the custody hearings.

Keep in mind that the mental well-being of each parent is only one of the many factors that the courts consider when making custody decisions. If you've been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, discuss the situation with your attorney like one from Law Office of Jeffrey Dragon early on. That way, you can work together to relegate the issue to the sidelines, and focus on what's really important.


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