Will I Lose Custody After a Suicide Attempt?

It is not necessarily the case that an individual will lose custody of their child after a suicide attempt. Each custody battle is unique and will depend on a variety of factors. Ultimately, the courts consider the best interest of the child when making custody decisions.

The mental health of each parent plays a vital role in determining who gets custody. However, a history of mental illness doesn't automatically mean the court will grant the other parent custody of the child.

This article discusses child custody after a suicide attempt. This article may be triggering for some readers. If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help immediately by contacting a mental health professional or calling a crisis hotline.

How Do Courts Determine the Best Interest of the Child?

Courts consider multiple factors when determining the best interest of the child. Ultimately, this standard is meant to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. Each case is unique and will depend on a variety of factors. These include:

  • The parent's ability to provide a safe and stable home for the child
  • How likely the child is to adjust to the community and school
  • The physical and mental health of the parents
  • The child's preference, depending on the age of the child
  • The opinions of family members and mental health professionals
  • Evidence of substance abuse or alcohol abuse by the parent
  • Any history of domestic violence or child abuse
  • The impact on the child's life and the child's welfare

Courts will use these factors to make a custody determination. They will decide whether the parents will share custody in a joint custody arrangement. Or, the court may decide on a sole custody arrangement while the other parent recovers. With sole custody, one parent has full custody. The other parent may have parenting time through visitation. Parents may also share legal custody though one parent has physical custody of the child.

Mental Illness and Custody Determination

The court will consider the parents' mental health when awarding or modifying custody. However, there are cases such as Voelker v. Voelker (1994) where courts have awarded custody to a parent despite the existence of mental health problems, including a suicide attempt.

The courts will likely look at what steps the parent is taking to treat the mental illness. Accordingly, they look at whether the parent is taking medication or getting therapy. They also look at the parent's general recovery progress. In some cases, the court can positively view seeking help and treatment for mental health issues. These attempts can be seen as a commitment to getting better and being a responsible, good parent.

Once a parent recovers, the custody of a child can be modified through a change to the parenting plan. It is therefore very important you present the court with any proof to show your progress.

Visitation Rights

Even if the judge decides to modify your custody rights because of a mental health issue, it doesn't mean you won't have any rights. You can ask the court for parental visitation rights to ensure you get time with your child. Visitation rights can be given through a court order.

If a mental health issue affects a parent's ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their child, the court may limit visitation. The court may require supervised visitation by another adult. In some cases, the court may require the parent to undergo treatment or therapy before resuming visitation.

Remember, you can still ask the court to modify the custody order in the future. You can do this by showing your progress and convincing the court that having custody is in the best interest of the child. The court will always prioritize the child's safety and well-being when making decisions about visitation, custody, and child support.

Additional Resources

Consult With an Attorney for Your Child Custody Case

Custody arrangements can take an emotional toll on any parent. Figuring out the specific laws in your state can also be very challenging. A family law attorney can help you navigate this difficult process. They can help provide you with valuable legal advice about keeping custody of your child. Attorneys can help advise you on your parental rights and advocate for you in family court.

Speak with an experienced child custody lawyer today.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
  • An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
  • An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent

A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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