We all agree that the COVID pandemic and recent events have caused a tremendous increase in stress among most people. For those people with an underlying mental illness, the stress and upset brought on by the pandemic can cause an even greater impact on their mental health. Many of our clients want to know how this increased stress on those with underlying mental health conditions will affect their parenting plan, and the answer is: it depends.
If a person is experiencing a mental health crisis brought on by the pandemic (or for any other reason), and you can prove an impact on that person’s ability to care for their children, the court will look at the best interest of the child to determine whether a change in custody is warranted. In making that determination, the court will examine whether the parent is able to meet the needs of the child in terms of education, medical care, and daily needs, such as bathing and eating. It may be that the parent needs to have their situation reassessed by their health care providers, who may recommend a change in medication or therapy. If a parent is medically compliant, taking medication as prescribed by their doctor, and abiding by therapeutic recommendations so that they are functioning well and are able to care for their children, the court may take a wait and see approach rather than making a permanent change. The mere existence of an underlying mental illness may not affect parenting.
The question is whether the parent, through the proper use of medication and therapy, can care for their children in an appropriate manner.