Can a parent with a mental illness lose their custody rights?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2023 | Family Law

Any child custody decisions must be based on the best interests of the child. Texas courts will consider each parent’s mental health as well as each parent’s ability to safely care for the child when making child custody decisions.

Issues may arise when a parent has a significant mental health condition. If so, the child’s other parent may be hesitant to allow the child to spend time with that parent. The child’s other parent may even move the court to prevent that parent from seeing the child.

This raises the question about whether a parent can lose custody of their child or even have their parental rights terminated because they have a mental illness.

Termination of parental rights in Texas

It is very difficult for a person’s parental rights to be terminated in Texas. It is seen as an act of last resort. It will only be undertaken to preserve the child’s best interests when no other options are viable.

A person’s parental rights can only be terminated if, by clear and convincing evidence:

  • They abandoned the child with no intent of return
  • They abandoned the child with another person for at least three months without providing for adequate support of the child
  • They placed the child in conditions that endangered the child’s physical or emotional well-being
  • They engaged in conduct that endangered the child’s physical or emotional well-being

These are only some statutory grounds upon which a parent’s parental rights can be terminated; there are others.

Mental health and child custody

Given the limited grounds upon which a parent’s parental rights can be terminated, having a mental health condition alone may not be enough to deny a parent’s right to their child. If a parent can provide the child with a safe environment and if the parent does not treat the child in a way that endangers the child’s physical and emotional well-being, it is likely that their parental rights will not be terminated.

However, courts in Texas do have leeway to restrict a parent’s rights to their child due to a mental health condition. For example, if a parent stops taking medication for their condition or relapses into substance abuse, their custody rights might be restricted.