A custody case is a stressful time in any parent’s life. The Oklahoma court holds the child’s interests as a priority. If a parent is not providing for a child’s needs and well-being, they could be found unfit. One factor that influences fitness is mental health issues. Parents with mental disorders frequently worry that they will lose custody because of their diagnosis. It’s important to understand how this impacts custody and how a Tulsa child custody attorney can help.

Each situation is unique in a custody case, and a parent with a mental illness may or may not be allowed custody. How serious the parent’s illness is, the steps they take to address it, and their willingness to work hard to provide for their children will all affect a determination of fitness.

How Does the Family Court Decide a Child’s Interests?

When the court makes any decision regarding children, they consider the child’s interests first. This includes the assumption that joint custody is in the child’s interests unless other factors negate this assumption. In Oklahoma, the court reviews the following factors:

  1. The child’s established relationship with each parent
  2. Whether the child has had a chance to establish a relationship
  3. Each parent’s capabilities to provide sufficient care for their child, including getting aid from others when needed
  4. Each parent’s willingness to accept parental responsibility, including following the pick-up and drop-off requirements of the parenting plan
  5. If the child can better develop their relationship with each parent through expected and frequent contact
  6. If a child’s well-being and development will benefit from the influence of each parent
  7. The ability of each parent to respect the other’s parental rights and time with the child
  8. If joint custody is appropriate in a parenting plan created by the court, by parents, or with the help of meditation
  9. The distance between parents’ primary residences and the ability of each parent to transport a child between them
  10. Each parent’s willingness to work together and communicate based on the child’s needs

If one parent believes that the other is unfit to have joint custody of children, they must provide evidence of this to the court. If a parent is deemed unfit, the other parent may receive sole custody, with the unfit parent receiving limited or no parental rights.

Mental Health Disorders and Unfit Determinations

If you have a mental health disorder, you could be found to be an unfit parent. However, mentally unwell, unfit parents are typically those who have an untreated disorder that impacts, harms, or endangers their children. Mental illnesses cover disorders such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorders

Each mental illness has a unique impact on a person and their loved ones, so each case is approached differently by the court.

The court would consider a mental illness to be a sign of an unfit parent if any of the following is true:

  1. The parent is unable to provide a safe and clean living environment.
  2. The parent is unable to care for their child’s basic needs, such as clothing, shelter, and food.
  3. The parent’s relationship with their child is negatively impacted.
  4. The parent requires frequent hospitalization or in-home care and cannot be present for their child.
  5. The child is at risk of abuse or violence.

Many mental health disorders are treatable or manageable. Therefore, they generally do not affect a parent’s ability to care for their children. When a parent shows the ability and willingness to treat their disorder, thus remaining involved and attentive to their child’s needs, the court is unlikely to find them unfit.


Q: What Is Considered an Unfit Parent in Oklahoma?

A: An unfit parent is a parent who is incapable of or unwilling to provide a child with the basic care and support that they need. A parent may be considered unfit if the court finds evidence of the following actions:

  • Child neglect and abuse
  • Domestic violence against the child or others in their household
  • Untreated and severe substance misuse
  • Untreated mental illness that affects the parent’s ability to care for their child
  • Criminal history, particularly those involving drugs and violent offenses

Q: How Can a Mother Lose a Custody Battle in Oklahoma?

A: If a parent is found to be unfit, they may lose custody rights. The court decides custody according to the child’s interests, and there is a presumption that joint custody is in the child’s interests. The court considers several factors to determine if this presumption should be overturned. The capabilities of each parent are considered, but a parent’s unfitness is more severe. A parent who is unfit may have limited visitation rights or, in cases where it would endanger the child, no visitation rights at all.

Q: What Should You Not Say During a Custody Battle?

A: You shouldn’t talk badly about your co-parent, whether that is in court, online, or in public locations. The court prefers when parents are able to cooperate for their child’s benefit, but when that isn’t possible, it will still frown on parents who exacerbate the conflict.

When a co-parent has engaged in serious harmful actions, like untreated substance misuse, abuse, violence, or criminal activity, this conduct should be discussed in an appropriate fashion in court. An attorney can help you determine what information is relevant to disclose throughout the custody battle.

Q: Does Taking Antidepressants Affect Child Custody?

A: Taking antidepressants would likely not affect child custody by itself. Being diagnosed with depression would affect the court’s custody determination if you are shown to be unable to provide basic care and parenting for your children because of your depression.

Taking antidepressants may show that you are taking the necessary steps to treat your depression so that you are able to care for your children. If the antidepressants are legally prescribed and are not impacting your parenting ability, it may actually be beneficial for your custody case.

Contact Stange Law Firm

If you are facing accusations of unfitness due to a mental illness, you need a skilled attorney to represent you and show the court your side of things. If you are a parent worried about your co-parent’s ability to care for your child’s basic needs and safety, you need an attorney to prove that they are not fit for custody. Contact Stange Law Firm for compassionate custody attorneys.