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Child custody and the stigma of mental illness

A child custody battle can be stressful enough on its own, but when mental issues enter the picture, that stress can seem all the more magnified. Maryland parents who struggle with mental illness likely have preexisting complications to sort out long before divorce papers arrive. Although some argue that adding children to this mix is a wrong step, maintaining fair child custody despite the struggles can make all the difference in the lives of those involved.

Regardless of the specific type of issue, winning a child custody battle has proved difficult for parents who struggle mentally. An article in Bipolar Lives expresses discontent with the stimga attached to mental illness altogether, claiming that parents who suffer from such illnesses often do not receive fair treatment in the courtroom. In fact, the article highlights a study from Mental Health America to show that only a third of children with a parent having serious mental health issues resides with that parent. It is not uncommon for courts to see serious problems with mental illness; this can apply even when appointed psychologists have already assessed parents to be perfectly capable of raising a child. Even worse, Bipolar Lives states that, 70 to 80 percent of the time, a parent who uses mental health problems as the argument for a custody battle wins.

As for Maryland's laws on child custody specifically, the state's court website shares that, after parents file for divorce, courts may consider a parent's mental state to best create living plans for children. This includes ordering a mental health evaluation, where the parent is subject to interviews by a private clinician or court psychologist. After the interview, the psychologist generally writes a report, where courts may then decide to enforce individual or family counseling. The stigma surrounding mental health is slowly fading to the background, but countless parents who suffer from disorders continue to receive unfair treatment when it comes to child custody.   






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