Updated: May 24
Have you recently received a mental health diagnosis? Are you currently in court in a custody or visitation case in Virginia? Are you worried about how your diagnosis could affect winning your case?
If you’ve been told you have bipolar disorder, depression, or anxiety, you have nothing to be ashamed of. The COVID-19 pandemic, life events, and stress have affected you and many others. People are being newly diagnosed and some with a current mental health condition may be feeling worse.
How Could My Mental Health Diagnosis Affect My Virginia Custody or Visitation Rights?
You should know that under Virginia Code § 20-124.3, judges have to look into each parent’s mental health when it decides on custody or visitation in the best interests of the child.
If you or your co-parent have a mental health diagnosis like depression and anxiety, the judge looks at the circumstances as a whole to determine if a parent’s mental health will affect their ability to parent. So, for example, if a parent is a veteran diagnosed with PTSD, a judge won’t necessarily say the parent is unfit to have custody of or visitation with their child.
If you have depression, anxiety, PTSD or schizophrenia you will disclose it. A judge will want to know if you’ve been recently hospitalized for mental health and if you’re taking prescribed medication.
You should also know that a judge can also require you to follow the recommendations of a psychiatrist or other mental health professional to make sure you’re stable and that your child will be safe with you. You can also testify and assure the judge that you are ready, willing, and able to parent your child without problems.
How Can a Virginia Custody and Visitation Lawyer Help Me If I Have a Mental Illness?
A skilled lawyer can present evidence to the judge that you are seeking treatment and receiving medication and therapy. As long as a judge can see that your mental health diagnosis doesn’t impact your ability to raise your child, you’ll likely be fine and improve your chances of getting full or joint custody and visitation.
A lawyer can help you prove that there haven’t been any times when your mental health diagnosis has affected your ability to parent. And if there have been times like these, a lawyer can explain to the judge what steps you’ve taken to get better and how you manage your mental health.
You can also hire a mental health provider as an expert witness or if you or the other parent requests it, you may ask for or submit to a neutral psychiatric evaluation for the court to consider at trial. The judge can use any information gathered from evaluations or treating providers to make a decision in a custody or visitation case.
You Can Win Custody and Visitation with a Mental Health Diagnosis
Unfortunately, many parents in custody battles use their co-parent’s mental health challenges to make them look bad in front of the judge. But you should know that having depression, anxiety or any other mental health diagnosis doesn’t automatically disqualify you from being an active parent to your child.
Contact A Virginia Custody and Visitation Lawyer Today
When your mental health has been or could be made an issue in your case by your co-parent, having an experienced lawyer look over the facts of your case is crucial. A family lawyer can come up with a strategy to convincingly put your mental health challenges in the best light possible and help you win.
If you have a mental health diagnosis and are worried about how it might affect your custody or visitation case, it’s a good idea to talk with an experienced Fredericksburg, Virginia family law attorney. The Bramble Law Firm are family lawyers, specializing in representing fathers in the Fredericksburg area. Contact us to schedule a consultation today.