Can I Lose My Children if I Have a Mental Illness?

The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab Jan. 14, 2020

The term “mental illness” may usually bring to mind disorders such as schizophrenia and others such as anti-social personality disorder and borderline personality disorder. The stigma attached to these and other disorders may have a divorced parent diagnosed with a mental illness wondering if he or she can retain custody of the children.

Almost 13 million people live in Illinois. Among those, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that about 363,000 adults had a serious mental issue between 2013 and 2014. As a parent with mental illness, should you feel scared that your ex-spouse may take your children away from you?

Child Custody Factors

As in any divorce case in the United States, the judgment of child custody centers around the best interest of the child. Illinois is no different. Making the decision on which parent will have physical custody of the child, the court considers several factors:

  • The wishes of the parent or parents

  • The wishes of the child

  • The relationship the child has with other members of the family

  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved

  • Ongoing or repeated domestic violence directed against the child or another family member

Mental Illness Factors

Although your mental illness may influence the judge’s decision, it may not disqualify you from getting or retaining custody. However, the court does have the authority to terminate parental rights if the illness is serious enough to affect the children’s overall well-being.

The judge may consider the type of illness you have, along with its severity. He or she may request documentation or ask to speak with your treatment team for further information. It may be easier for you and everyone involved to comply with the judge’s request.

Speaking with a judge openly and truthfully concerning your illness may help your case. Proving that you can take care of your children and provide them with the love and care they need may persuade the judge to keep them in your care.