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Can a bipolar parent win a custody battle?

According to one advocacy group for those living with mental illness, a third of kids with a mother or father diagnosed with a serious mental illness like Bipolar Disorder are raised by someone other than that parent.

One reason for this is that the courts view mental illness as severe handicaps to effective parenting. Instead of taking the more enlightened view that mental illness can be successfully treated and managed with therapy and drugs, courts tend to err on the side of caution and rule against placing a child with his or her afflicted parent.

Bipolar Disorder patients rarely suffer from much distortion of reality, making the condition unlike most other mental illnesses in that respect. Yet the stigma attaches to a Bipolar diagnosis more than to any other mental illness except schizophrenia.

Courts weigh the parents' mental and physical conditions when determining custody. Because of this, even when the illness remains well-controlled, research indicates that in custody battles, the other parent prevails in as many as 80 percent of the cases by making mental illness a major focus.

Bipolar parents battling for custody need a strong ally in the courtroom who has successfully litigated custody cases for those with mental illness diagnoses. This attorney can insist that his or her client be independently evaluated by a forensic psychologist. Bipolar parents should cooperate completely and remain honest about their condition. The parent must also maintain regular contact with mental health professionals who can monitor his or her condition and implement an effective treatment plan.

Maintaining a strong support network of friends and family who are able to provide credible court testimony is vital. Supporters can also form a safety network for the parent and child in the event of medical or other emergencies.

If you are a Bipolar parent seeking custody, it doesn't have to be a futile effort. With competent legal counsel and medical and familial support, this battle can be won.

Source:, "Surviving Custody Disputes as a Bipolar Parent," K.H., accessed Sep. 04, 2015

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