When One Parent is Mentally Ill, What Happens to the Child’s Custody?
In some states, mental illness is a factor that can lead a parent to lose their parental rights or custody. The custody loss rate for parents who have a mental illness can go anywhere between 70-80%, and these high numbers make some parents apprehensive about seeking treatment, for fear that it can lead to loss of custody of their children.
In New York, for instance, 16% and 21% of families in the foster care system and the receiving family preservation services, respectively, involve one parent with a mental illness. The law, however, has allowed only one-third of these parents to raise their children.
In the event of a divorce, the grandparents and other relatives assume the role of caretakers following the psychiatric hospitalization of the parent granted custody. Other possible placements, however, include foster care. In cases such as this, it is best to get in touch with your family attorney, as they best know how to navigate the matter.
Mental Illness Not the Sole Factor
States deny parents with mental illness custody of their child in cases of severe mental illness and if there is no other competent adult in the home. A mental disorder, however, cannot be the sole basis for declaring parental unfitness. Authorities will need to gauge other factors, such as if the parent experiences disorientation or other adverse effects due to medications. The likelihood of losing custody, moreover, increases if the mental illness prevents the parent from protecting the child during harmful situations.
Everyone has a right to conceive and raise children without government intervention — within reason, of course.
The state may intervene in a family affair if the need to protect children from danger, neglect, or abuse arises. When a parent, regardless if alone or with support, is unable to provide the care and protection their child needs, the government may also step in and remove the child so that they can receive substitute care.
In Colorado, lawyers may refer to the Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124 when determining the criteria related to parental responsibility involving a mentally ill parent. Seeking the help of a reputable lawyer is of the essence, as experienced lawyers know how the courts approach such issues.