Can You Lose Custody Rights Due to a Mental Illness in Florida?
In the United States, nearly one in five adults live with a mental illness. If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness and your former spouse learned about this, they may attempt to modify your child custody arrangement by claiming that you are an unfit parent. But can you lose your custody rights due to your mental illness?
A Parent’s Mental Illness and Parental Fitness in Florida
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, you are probably wondering how your diagnosis may affect your custody rights in Florida. The key factor to determine whether a parent’s mental illness will cause them to lose custody is determining what is in the best interests of the child.
Under Florida’s family law, the general presumption is that it is in the child’s best interest to maintain a relationship with both parents. However, maintaining frequent contact with both parents may not be in the child’s best interests if either parent poses a threat to the child’s safety or wellbeing.
Thus, Florida courts evaluate parental fitness when determining whether the child must spend time with both parents. While mental illness does not necessarily mean that a parent poses a danger to their child, the other parent can attempt to limit that parent’s custody rights by arguing that the parent’s mental illness renders him or her “unfit.”
Under the Florida Statutes Section 751.05, a parent is considered “unfit” if there is proof that he or she abused, neglected, or abandoned their child. In many cases, being diagnosed with a mental illness does not affect the parent’s custody rights or their ability to spend time with the child.
However, it all boils down to the child’s best interests and whether the mental illness makes the parent “unfit.”
Can You Lose Child Custody Due to Your Mental Illness?
When it comes to determining whether a parent’s custody rights should be taken away or restricted due to their mental illness, the court will have to evaluate how the illness affects the individual’s parenting abilities.
For a parent who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it might be necessary to demonstrate proof that the child is not at risk due to their medical condition. If there is clear and convincing evidence that the mental illness does not have a negative effect on the parent’s parenting ability, the illness itself will not have any effect on the custody arrangement.
However, if the other parent can prove that their ex-spouse’s mental illness poses an ongoing danger to the child or has resulted in actual harm to the child, the court is likely to terminate their custody rights.
In other words, the mere fact that you were diagnosed with a mental illness is unlikely to affect your custody rights in Florida. However, if there is evidence that your illness presents an ongoing danger to the child, you could lose your custody rights. It is important to seek help from a knowledgeable Orlando child custody lawyer to discuss your particular case. Speak with our skilled lawyer at the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee by calling at 407-521-7171.