Significant advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder in recent years. The stigma once associated with it has been minimized thanks to a number of famous people who have been open about their struggles with the condition. Ads for medication to treat bipolar disorder regularly pop up on TV now.
However, not all family court judges are so open-minded when it comes to parents with bipolar disorder (or other mental health issues) who are seeking custody of their children in divorce. When the other parent is fighting for sole custody of a child and limited custody or visitation by the parent with bipolar disorder, they can use that parent’s condition and the continued misinformation surrounding it to their advantage.
The parent with bipolar disorder must be prepared to prove their ability to be a good parent — no matter how unfair that may seem. That means being forthright and honest about their condition, their treatment and their prognosis.
Often, it’s helpful to bring in one or more mental health professionals to testify. Some parents will submit to an evaluation by a forensic pathologist. The pathologist can then provide unbiased, educated testimony on the person’s condition and ability to parent.
It can also be advantageous to have testimony from people in your support system. This could include your own therapist and other physicians who are treating you and helping you manage the condition. Getting the proper medication and sticking to your treatment plan can make all the difference. A judge will want to see that you’re getting the treatment you require and following your doctors’ orders.
Judges often also like to see that a parent with any kind of physical or mental challenges has a support system of friends, family and caregivers who can help them care for their child. The judge’s main concern is for the child’s safety and well-being.
While opening up about your condition may not be comfortable, this is no time to minimize it or worry about what may seem like an invasion of your privacy. You’ll need to be honest about any challenges your bipolar disorder may present while emphasizing the fact that you are a responsible parent. Your family law attorney can help you build a strong case for remaining an integral part of your child’s life.