Parenting your child after a divorce is challenging under any circumstances, but for parents who are battling mental illnesses, it can prove an insurmountable burden in some cases.
Statistics indicate that two-thirds of kids who have a parent diagnosed with a mental illness are not being reared by that parent. This is important because Tennessee is one of the states where the parents' mental status is considered when determining custody of the children.
This can have a chilling effect, as parents may avoid seeking help and being diagnosed with a mental illness that could affect being awarded custody of their children in a divorce.
If you need to seek in-patient psychiatric treatment, you may worry this will cause you to lose custody of the kids. While this initially may be true, as someone will need to legally and physically assume care of the children while you get treatment, your family law attorney can help you strategize and fight to win custody back once you are stabilized and released from the hospital.
A parent with a mental illness who is compliant with their treatment program — including taking any prescribed medicines — can credibly argue that the kids are at no more risk than they would be if the parent was a diabetic or an epileptic.
If you are fighting your ex for custody and are concerned they will use your mental illness against you, it's best to get out ahead of the situation. Be upfront with your attorney and remain in close touch with your doctor regarding your treatment. It is possible to retain or regain custody in such circumstances.