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Questioning the Mental Stability of the Other Parent

Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah June 22, 2023

When you are co-parenting with someone and you start to notice that their behavior has become erratic, it’s natural to wonder whether they might be struggling with mental instability. Evaluating a person’s mental stability is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and, in many cases, professional intervention. 

If you are concerned about your child’s safety and well-being due to the other parent’s mental instability, it is important to discuss your concerns with an attorney and provide evidence to support your claims. At The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah, I can help you navigate this sensitive topic and determine whether adjustments to your existing custody arrangement would be appropriate. With an office in Sacramento, California, I provide legal services throughout Solano, Alameda, Placer, Eldorado, Yolo, and San Joaquin counties.  

Mental Instability of a Parent

“Mental instability” is a term used to describe a range of mental health issues that can affect a person’s emotional, cognitive, or behavioral functioning. These issues can result in significant impairment in areas such as work, school, and relationships. It is worth noting that a mental illness is a common and treatable condition, but when left unaddressed, it can lead to significant problems in a co-parenting relationship. 

There are a number of mental illnesses that can impact a person’s ability to parent effectively. Some of the most common include: 

  • Depression. Depression can make it difficult to maintain consistent routines and engage in enjoyable activities, which can make it challenging to meet the needs of children. 

  • Bipolar disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience intense mood swings that can affect their ability to provide stability and structure for their children. 

  • Substance abuse disorder. Substance abuse can have profound effects on a person’s mental health and decision-making abilities, which can make it difficult for them to parent in a safe and effective manner. 

  • Personality disorder. Conditions like borderline personality disorder or narcissistic personality disorder can make it challenging for individuals to form healthy, stable relationships with others, which can interfere with effective co-parenting. 

If you are concerned that the other parent may be struggling with mental health issues, you might want to seek the legal guidance of an attorney to know whether you can make adjustments to the existing custody arrangement.  

Signs That the Other Parent May Be Mentally Unstable

If you are concerned that the other parent may be struggling with mental instability, there are several signs to look out for. These include: 

  • sudden changes in behavior or mood 

  • erratic decision-making or impulsive behaviors 

  • difficulty adhering to schedules or routines

  • neglecting physical health or hygiene needs 

  • struggling to control intense emotions like anger or sadness

  • engaging in dangerous or reckless behaviors that put others at risk

These signs may not necessarily be indicative of mental instability on their own, but if you notice several of them consistently over time, it may be worth considering whether there might be a larger issue at play. 

How Can This Affect a Child?

A parent’s mental instability can have a significant impact on their child. Depending on the severity and type of mental illness, it can affect the quality of care and attention the parent is able to provide.  

Children require stability, security, and consistency to thrive, and if a parent’s mental illness causes instability in the home environment, it can have a detrimental effect on the child’s mental and emotional well-being. Additionally, a parent’s mental instability may cause them to exhibit erratic and unpredictable behavior, which can cause the child to feel anxious, confused, and afraid. 

Mental Illness & Adjustments to the Custody Agreement

In California, family law judges make custody decisions based on what’s in the best interests of the child. One of the factors taken into account is each parent’s physical and mental health. If a parent’s mental health changes and it impacts their ability to provide proper care for their child, it may be grounds for custody modification. However, the parent seeking modification must show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the initial custody order was made and that a modification is necessary to protect the child’s best interests. 

While a parent's mental illness may not automatically disqualify them from receiving custody or visitation, it may be a factor in the court’s decision-making process. A parent’s mental instability can be a threat to their child if it affects their ability to provide proper care or if their behavior poses a risk of harm to the child. A mental health evaluation of the other parent may be necessary to determine whether their condition constitutes a significant threat to the child. 

If a parent’s mental instability poses a risk to the child, the court may order supervised visitation. This means that the parent can only see the child during visits that are supervised by a professional or a court-appointed monitor. The goal of supervised visitation is to protect the child’s safety and well-being while still allowing them to maintain a relationship with the other parent.  

Legal Advocacy When You Need It Most

It is not uncommon for one parent to question the other parent’s mental stability and the impact it may have on their child. If this sounds like your situation, you might want to discuss your concerns with an attorney. At The Law Office of Richard M. Abdallah, I provide clients with the legal advocacy and guidance they need in family law matters, including post-divorce child custody modifications. Contact my office to get an initial consultation.