Few allegations damage a child custody case like reports of mental health problems. Criminal charges, family violence, and drug use cause obstacles for parents fighting for custody. However, criminal convictions don’t last forever. Family violence risks can be mitigated. Drug use can be rehabilitated. But allegations of a parent’s mental health problems create serious long-term issues in child custody cases. Mere allegations of suicidal thoughts often completely up-end the status quo in parenting relationships.
Allegations of Suicidal Thoughts or Behavior
Allegations that a parent made suicidal statements can severely damage a custody case, regardless of whether the allegations are solid or provable. The mere allegation that a parent has been suicidal often sways the court to remove the children from that parent because the courts prioritize the children’s safety. Therefore, when the court becomes aware of a parent’s suicidal tendencies, it protects the children first by restricting the parent’s time with them. Next, the court places the children with the other parent and frequently requires supervised visits for the parent suspected to be suicidal. Once the other parent gains custody, regaining custody is extremely hard.
Suicidal thoughts differ from other allegations in one critical way: the accused parent must prove their mental stability. Other serious allegations fail to damage a custody case like allegations of suicidal thoughts. Family violence, although concerning, can be overcome. For example, a single instance of mild family violence stemming from an argument between the parents that did not affect the children may not impact a custody order. Likewise, drug use by a parent can be overcome when successive testing shows no drug use, thus assuring the court that the parent no longer uses and does not threaten the children. Even criminal convictions do not necessarily equal a reduction in custody. Indeed, a conviction for a non-violent crime may not affect a custody order. But allegations of suicidal thoughts are different.
Why Suicide Allegations Are Different
With suicide allegations, the accused parent must prove they are not suicidal, forcing them to prove a negative. They must seek psychological evaluations, psychiatric care, psychotropic medication, counseling, or all of the above to assure the court that there is no risk of suicide. The accused parent bears all of the assessment and treatment costs involved too. The courts commonly order supervised visitation with the children until the psychological assessments show the parent is safe. Sufficient treatment requires weeks or months of expensive work from mental health professionals.
Dealing with Mental Health Issues? Here are Some Recommendations
As dedicated family lawyers, we deal with mental health allegations regularly. We have represented parents who believe their spouse is suicidal. Likewise, we occasionally represent good parents who struggle with suicidal tendencies. Based on our experience, here are our recommendations:
- Seek Help from a Professional. First and foremost, if you are suicidal, consult a licensed psychological or psychiatric professional. Your safety is job one. You can’t be a parent if you’re not alive. You can’t be a good parent if you consider harming yourself or others. Getting treatment is crucial.
- Keep It Between You and Your Mental Health Practitioner or Doctor. Do not tell anyone other than your doctor or treating mental health professional about your suicidal thoughts. Be open and honest with them about your thoughts and circumstances. But do not tell friends, family, coworkers, the other parent, Facebook, Instagram, or any other person about your suicidal thoughts until you get treatment. That means, if at all possible, seek treatment by yourself. In a custody battle, your friends and family can be required to testify against you. The other parent will certainly testify about your suicidal thoughts. The more people who know, the more likely you lose your case.
- ONE EXCEPTION: Tell your lawyer. Once you are undergoing treatment and are safe, tell your lawyer about your situation. Your lawyer cannot reveal privileged or confidential information that would damage your case. So, your mental health secret is safe with your lawyer. However, remember that your lawyer must report abuse, imminent danger to the children, and other safety issues. If your lawyer becomes aware that you are suicidal, they should seek treatment for you. However, the facts concerning your treatment are confidential and privileged. To reiterate, only your lawyer, your mental health facility, and you should know about your treatment.
You Are Not Alone
Good people sometimes struggle with mental health problems. The courts generally don’t begrudge a parent undergoing therapy and taking prescribed medications correctly. That is, the courts do not require perfect mental health. However, the courts must be convinced that the mental health issues of a parent do not endanger the children. Getting the court the proof it needs to believe a parent is not a threat is a long, arduous, and expensive undertaking.
If you need help, by all means, get help. If you are suicidal, seek the services of a licensed mental health facility. Keep the circle of people who know about your circumstances as small as possible. Get help first. Once you are safe, tell your lawyer.
Youngblood Law, PLLC: Definitive, Decisive, Dedicated
Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas law firm dedicated to family law. We help good people trapped in bad relationships find the freedom to pursue their new happily ever after. We also proudly offer the collaborative divorce process for our clients. To increase your chances of success, we approach each case with the client’s unique situation in mind, and we’re always available when you need us. We identify different opportunities and strategies for your case.
If your spouse exhibits thoughts of suicide or if you have had suicidal thoughts but sought out therapy for the sake of you and your children, we can help. Call us at (817) 601-5345 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.
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