Mental Health and Child Custody Determinations

Generally speaking, Arizona courts will presume it is in the best interests of a child to spend substantial time with each parent and that each parent should participate meaningfully in decision-making for the child. However, there are exceptions to these general rules, especially if one parent has a history of mental health issues, and those issues pose a threat to the child’s best interests, safety, or emotional health. There are several factors that will be taken into account with Mental health and child custody determinations.

The Impact of Mental Health on Child Custody (Now Known as “Legal Decision-Making”)

When a court is determining adequate custody arrangements, they will consider several factors; one of those factors being the physical and mental health of all individuals involved. If one parent has a mental illness, the judge will have to consider the evidence of that disease, the extent, and if the parent manages it. If the mental health issue is severe enough that it leaves the parent unable to care for the child or it will affect the child’s relationship with that parent, then the courts may require supervised visits or limited decision-making rights for that parent.

The Request for a Mental Examination

Before determining the best interests of the child, the courts may require a psychiatric review of the parent being accused of a mental health issue. Even if the analysis reveals that the parent has a mental health condition, note that the courts would not refuse a parent his or her custodial rights due to mental disorders. Instead, they can only restrict that parent’s rights if the issue prevents them from caring for their child or they pose a serious threat to the child’s safety.

What Mental Health Issues Would the Court Consider?

There are a variety of mental health issues, and not all mental health concerns are something that would limit parenting time or even require supervised parenting time. Also, if the parent’s condition is managed and they have a physician’s testimony that they are not a threat, the courts will likely grant that parent decision-making or parenting time.

Some issues that the courts will consider include:

  • History of attempted suicide;
  • Severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia;
  • The medications required to treat the illness;
  • If the person has been hospitalized for their illness in the past;
  • If the mental illness will impact the child’s safety;
  • How willing the parent is to undergo treatment and follow treatment plans;
  • If the illness includes history of controlled substances or abusing substances.

If you are concerned that your spouse has a mental health issue that will affect your child’s best interests, contact a family law attorney at Udall Shumway, PLC immediately to explore your options.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Mental Health and Child Custody, or any other family law issue, please feel free to contact Sheri D. Shepard at 480.461.5300, log on to, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full-service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.