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How do mental health issues affect custody?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2024 | Family Law |

Courts consider many things when determining child custody and visitation rights. The law’s primary aim is to protect a child’s best interests.

When a parent has a mental illness, a judge looks at several factors to assess its impact on the parent’s ability to care for the child.

Types of custody

Wisconsin law recognizes two types of legal custody: sole and joint. A court grants sole legal custody to one parent, usually when it deems the other parent unfit. Joint custody involves both parents sharing custody rights.

Courts generally assume joint legal custody is best for the child. However, a judge considers many factors to decide if there are concerns with this kind of arrangement.

Best interests of the child

The main goal in any custody or visitation decision is what is best for the child. Courts evaluate aspects like the child’s emotional needs, the stability of the home environment and each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs.

When a parent has a mental illness, a judge must determine:

  • Does the illness cause consistent harmful behavior?
  • Is the parent’s condition likely to get worse?
  • Is the parent seeking and complying with treatment?
  • Do symptoms or episodes cause the parent to behave in a potentially dangerous way?

The court only grants sole custody if solid evidence shows that an illness affects a parent’s ability to provide a safe environment.

Supervised visitation

Depending on the circumstances, a court may limit custody or decide that supervised visitations are in the child’s best interests. A judge may adjust custody or visitation arrangements later if the parent seeks treatment and shows improved mental health.

Mental health issues do not automatically disqualify a parent from having custody or visitation rights. Each parent must demonstrate the ability to provide a stable and nurturing home for the child. These elements are the basis of any custody or visitation decision. Understanding the laws can help protect a child’s well-being during a divorce.



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