Cogdill Nichols Rein Wartelle Andrews (CNRWA)

Contact Us Today


Trusted Legal Counsel In Everett And Beyond

A parent’s mental health and child custody in Washington

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2024 | Family Law

Family courts in the beautiful state of Washington make custody decisions with one key principle in mind: the best interests of the child. When parents decide to divorce, the court steps in to ensure that the child’s welfare is at the forefront of any custody arrangement.

What happens when one parent struggles with mental health issues? One in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. The statistics are staggering, and the numbers continue to rise. What happens when children are in the middle of situations like these?

It might seem like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. In reality, though, the courts deal with these matters every single day and have a way of sorting it out.

Understanding the best interests of the child

Let’s begin by understanding the concept of “best interests of the child.” This is a legal standard—a list of factors—that guides the court in making custody decisions. When a judge makes a ruling, they must evaluate the child’s circumstances against each factor on that list.

Factors in this list include:

  • The child’s physical health
  • The child’s emotional health
  • The stability of the environment where the child lives
  • The relationship of the child with each parent
  • The child’s preference, if old enough to have one

As well as other important factors that the law deems critical for raising a child. The mental health of a parent is one of those factors, too, as it can have a significant impact on the life of the child.

Mental health

When considering a parent’s mental health, the court’s focus is not on labeling or attaching stigma to an already difficult topic. The goal of the court is to find the best possible solution for the child given the circumstances.

To that end, it will evaluate the parent’s mental health condition on a case-by-case basis to determine whether it is something that affects the child negatively.

For example, if a parent has depression and is undergoing successful treatment, the court is likely to not put a lot of weight on the mental health factor.

On the other hand, if a parent has an untreated mental health condition and there is evidence to prove that the child is, in any way, in danger when with that parent, the court will probably step in and take the matter of mental health into serious consideration.

A balanced approach

The state of Washington wants to see families together and courts are not out to separate children from their parents. The role of the court is simply to evaluate the facts, apply the factors provided by the law and ensure that the child is going to thrive in the custody arrangement they end up in.

Remember that, especially with young children, having a stable environment is critical for their growth and well-being. When parents choose to part ways, the approach of the court is to look out for the child so that while the adults can try to figure things out between them, the court can ensure the long-term safety, health and happiness of the child.