Mental Health Issues and Parental Rights in VA

Two divorced parents and son in mediation to figure out the best parenting plan

While once taboo, mental health and the issues that may afflict it are now openly discussed more than ever. As a result, the struggles that most faced in private, have now become acceptable to talk about. However, the stigma is far from gone. One major concern of many parents with mental health issues is whether or not their illness will impact their parental rights. Here’s what to know about mental health issues and parental rights in Virginia. 

It’s important to understand that when it comes to child custody, a judge will always look at what is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, while a judge will examine each parent’s mental, emotional, and physical health, their past and present relationship with the child and ability to care for him or her is at the heart of such decisions. Millions of parents with mental health issues receive joint or even primary custody of their children. However, it’s also important to note that individuals who suffer from more serious mental illnesses may face greater challenges with custody.

As with addiction, mental health issues can impair a parent’s ability to care for their child. But this is determined on a case-by-case basis. In cases in which a parent abuses drugs or alcohol, it’s likely that a judge will allow for supervised visitation in which a third party must be with the parent and child while they are together until the parent gets well. The same thing can occur with mental health issues and illness. If a mental illness is severe enough to impair their ability to care for their child, then it can impact their rights. 

Terminating Parental Rights

It takes a lot for a judge to terminate parental rights. This is only done in situations that are extreme and in which it is ultimately in the best interest of the child. While this differs based on the facts and circumstances of each case, common causes for termination of parental rights include:

  • The parent suffers from a permanent and severe mental illness or intellectual disability;
  • The parent physically or sexually abused the child;
  • The parent habitually abuses drugs, alcohol, or narcotics;
  • The parent willfully neglected his or her child, posing a serious threat to the child’s life, health, or development; and
  • The child was placed in foster care and the parent has refused for at least 12 months to remedy the conditions that placed them there. 

Put simply, a mentally ill parent won’t lose parental rights for the sole fact that they are mentally ill. Rather, if they lose their parental rights it will be because they do nothing to remedy their health issues and cause more harm to their children than good. 

Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC Can Help Those in VA Facing Child Custody

Understanding what is necessary to prove in child custody cases is often key to receiving the best outcome. This is why it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who can explain the whole process to you and walk you through each and every step. 

At Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC, we understand the importance of protecting your parental rights. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

Posted in: Child Custody, Family Law