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Unread 01-25-2013, 12:04 PM   #1
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Default Custody and Bipolar Parent

Hi, all:

Looking for some insight from anyone who is familiar with child custody proceedings when one parent is bipolar. I am friends with a couple who are separated - the father is bipolar and has had extreme challenges over the past 3 years - on disability and in and out of inpatient, multiple medication changes with virtually no success. He is now not taking any meds, and while he seems much better than he was 6 months ago, he is clearly in a manic state - very grandiose thoughts, excessive spending, huge ego, some paranoia. He thinks he is smarter than Albert Einstein, for instance. However, we think he has his therapist fooled into thinking he is fine, and he claims a psychiatrist told him he does not need to be on meds anymore.

His wife is concerned about him having unsupervised visits with their 3 year old daughter, but she is not looking to block visitation completely. He, of course, thinks he's fine and is denying everything he says to her that she documented in an emergency custody action. He recently stated that he has the right to take his daughter alone whenever he wants as her parent, hence the emergency filing. She is fine when the three of them are together so she can see how he acts.

The hearing is a few weeks away, so I'm wondering what she can expect in terms of how they will determine whether he is fit to see the child by himself. Do they only look at medical history and then the account of any professionals he is seeing now? Would they potentially have an independent professional try to evaluate him? The concern there is that he is manipulative and may be able to act stable and "normal" during such an eval and potentially be deemed OK.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks!
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Unread 01-25-2013, 12:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Hello. Well, I'm a mom and I have bipolar. I'm a very good mom. Having bipolar doesn't automatically mean you're a bad parent. I'm not on meds and I don't have a pdoc or a T. But I'm a very, very good mom and there is 0 concern that my having bipolar is an issue in that area. So I have some very specific questions about this situation.

1) Is he abusive toward the children either verbally, physically, or sexually in any way.

2) Is he neglectful in that he doesn't give the daughter proper baths, feed her, pay attention to her needs like a cup of water or a cuddle, or not pay attention like if she's about to stick her finger in a light socket. Or sit around drunk when no one is there to supervise the child/ drive drunk with her (or under infulance of other drugs.)

3) Is he threatening to kidnap and run.

4) Is he likely to just leave her somewhere (like with his parents or friends or siblings) so he can go out and do whatever.

There needs to be a reason why your friend thinks he's not fit to have the child when alone. Just having bipolar doesn't automatically make you a bad parent. Even not on meds it doesn't matter how bad I'm doing one day, I'm there for my kids 100%. I will drag myself through hell to make sure my kids are safe and happy. So, it's just more than having a diagnosis.
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:35 PM   #3
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

I am hoping to get joint custody myself. The first hearing with the judge indicated that the judge didn't care about bipolar disorder -- he asked my wife if she were a doctor, for example, and mentioned that "sometimes it just takes an adjustment of the meds." She is stretching it being a problem and wants visitation although we agree on my getting the kids on weekends. I told the judge I was on meds. I got a letter from my doctor which says I've been med compliant and would be a good candidate for joint custody -- the judge didn't bother to get a copy of the letter from me. So I think it might be reasonable to ask the judge to have the father get a letter of recommendation / med compliancy from his psychiatrist. But if there is no criminal record the judge might not care about the bipolar disorder. The judge could subpeana the psychiatrist to appear in court also if he/she wanted.
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:38 PM   #4
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

I agree with DH, believing he's smarter than Einstein doesn't make him a danger to his daughter, probably makes him more entertaining for herThis situation needs to be assessed from all angles, and if she's in no danger from him, I doubt they'd deny him unsupervised visitation. Btw, I'm a single unmedicated mom, my daughter thinks I'm interesting, dont blame her bcoz atm I'm not too sure that I'm not in part some ethereal mythical creature... Chill, bipolar doesn't automatically mean irresponsible
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:53 PM   #5
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Hi, DarkHeart. Thanks much for your reply. I too am a bipolar parent, and both I and my wife agree that I'm a very good dad and very capable of caring for our two special needs children, so I completely agree that a bipolar diagnosis and being medicated or not doesn't equate to being an unfit parent.

However, from what I have seen and heard from him and what the mother has told me, the concern is mostly because of things he has said and actions he has taken that are not necessarily with direct regard to their daughter, but are issues. I can honestly say that if I were separated from my wife and acting the way he is, I would hope that there would be supervision required when I was with my kids.

So to answer, he is not abusive at all towards the child, but seems verbally abusive to his wife; it is not known yet whether he is neglectful, because for the past 3 years he has only seen his daughter while with his wife - he has hardly interacted with her at all until the last few months; while he has not threatened to kidnap, he thinks both he and the child are geniuses and that the mother is inferior and not able to care for her - meanwhile, she has managed to work full time, support her daughter, deal with her husband's issues in getting him in and out of hospitalization, all while providing the best environment possible for their little girl who is a very bright, happy child. He has said that he may just take her from daycare when he feels like it and thinks her daycare is not challenging her enough with her a genius, so I would call that a possible threat. It is not known whether he might leave her somewhere because he has not been able to take her alone in her entire 3 years - he could barely take care of himself until recently.

Examples of questionable actions though: 1) pulled out a huge hunting knife at a hair salon when talking to a younger girl about how to stay safe when going out in the city and recommending she get one; 2) bought a gun secretly when they were living together and very suicidal, then moved out and left it on a shelf in the basement - he admitted that to me randomly and I told him to call his wife immediately to have it removed, which I made sure he did; 3) said he is running for president and can't talk about the campaign because the phones are tapped; 4) said that he started smoking because it makes him smarter.
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DX's: Bipolar II, ADD

Cymbalta 120 mg
Lamictal 100 mg
Xanax XR .5 mg
Vyvanse 70 mg

Prior meds: Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Pamelor, Pristiq, Lexapro, Viibryd, Abilify, Zyprexa, Geodon, Seroquel, Depakote, Klonopin, Buspar, Gabapentin, Focalin, Concerta, Deplin
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:55 PM   #6
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Med compliance should NOT figure into the equation at all as I can see. Actions, behaviour etc... that is what should be the focus. There are a good number of people who choose not to take meds and who alsomanage this illness just as well as those on meds. There are just as many people on meds who might not be fit parents as well. Medication compliance is no measure of health nor wellbeing. That is a scary thought.

I am not sure legally how this all works. DH asked some really good questions. I do know here in my country that there has to be real risk, danger and it has to be proven. My ex lost all custody and gaurdianship, he has no visitation at this point. I however am the one dx with Bipolar 1, he has no MI dx. But he became extremly violent in our home, neglected my children when I was at work etc. There was real risk and danger and I had plenty of proof, restraing orders for me and the children. If he wanted to go for visitation even with all that he would still be granted supervised visits, and would even probably be given unsupervised visits quickly if that went well.

I don't feel that is right because I very well know the danger they would be in. But that is what the court will also need to see. Being manic does not mean the child is in danger. Thinking you are as smarter than Albert Einstien doesn't mean the child is in danger.

I only know from my own experience with this and what they looked at behaviour wise.
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:55 PM   #7
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Just to add - he also now says that people should not accept a diagnosis of bipolar or any other psychiatric illness because he just learned that there is no medical test to show that someone has a chemical imbalance. He is now questioning the entire field of psychiatry.
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DX's: Bipolar II, ADD

Cymbalta 120 mg
Lamictal 100 mg
Xanax XR .5 mg
Vyvanse 70 mg

Prior meds: Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Pamelor, Pristiq, Lexapro, Viibryd, Abilify, Zyprexa, Geodon, Seroquel, Depakote, Klonopin, Buspar, Gabapentin, Focalin, Concerta, Deplin
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Unread 01-25-2013, 01:56 PM   #8
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anika. View Post
Med compliance should NOT figure into the equation at all as I can see. Actions, behaviour etc... that is what should be the focus. There are a good number of people who choose not to take meds and who alsomanage this illness just as well as those on meds. There are just as many people on meds who might not be fit parents as well. Medication compliance is no measure of health nor wellbeing. That is a scary thought.

I am not sure legally how this all works. DH asked some really good questions. I do know here in my country that there has to be real risk, danger and it has to be proven. My ex lost all custody and gaurdianship, he has no visitation at this point. I however am the one dx with Bipolar 1, he has no MI dx. But he became extremly violent in our home, neglected my children when I was at work etc. There was real risk and danger and I had plenty of proof, restraing orders for me and the children. If he wanted to go for visitation even with all that he would still be granted supervised visits, and would even probably be given unsupervised visits quickly if that went well.

I don't feel that is right because I very well know the danger they would be in. But that is what the court will also need to see. Being manic does not mean the child is in danger. Thinking you are as smarter than Albert Einstien doesn't mean the child is in danger.

I only know from my own experience with this and what they looked at behaviour wise.
I'm not saying that meds should be a requirement. However, I'm saying that he is not medicated and is speaking and acting irrationally, which is a problem in my book.
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DX's: Bipolar II, ADD

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Xanax XR .5 mg
Vyvanse 70 mg

Prior meds: Zoloft, Celexa, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Prozac, Pamelor, Pristiq, Lexapro, Viibryd, Abilify, Zyprexa, Geodon, Seroquel, Depakote, Klonopin, Buspar, Gabapentin, Focalin, Concerta, Deplin
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Unread 01-25-2013, 02:10 PM   #9
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

I didnt see your second post there. No Ubusi was suggesting that the court get a recomendation and letter of compliance from this mans psychiatrist.

Him being verbally abusive to the mother, the court will likely not see that as danger to the child. It needs to be directly to the child. This is where it gets messy, abusing mother infront of the child is abusive to the child. The court may not see it like that. Being verbally abusive to mom doesn't mean he will be to child, even if you highly suspect he will be and might be right. Usually the court will not take that stance.

I understand where you are coming from, if the court made me hand my children over to my husband I would feel like a very neglectful parent doing so. If I handed my kids over to someone like him who was not there parent and by my own choice they could take them away from me for being so neglectful. Kind of a real catch there.

I am just trying to share with you what I learnt about how they deal with this stuff here. That they usually want to have proof of direct harm to the child. I am in Canada not the Us, but the court seems to care little about potential harm or preventing harm unless harm has ready been done. Sort of deal with it after the fact. Again inocent untill proven guilty.. but I think depending on the state, we might be different in this area.

I do agree that leaving guns laying around is dangerous. Tho not believing in psychiatry... might not be. She doea need to present alk this to the court.
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Unread 01-25-2013, 02:10 PM   #10
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Default Re: Custody and Bipolar Parent

Well from the behavior you described, I'm thinking that his ex wife should present it to the court that he has some questionable behavior and let them investigate. If he is leaving guns and knives laying around that is a concern. I know that some people are verbally abusive to a spouse but not to the child, but if the child is witnessing the abuse that can be considered abuse, too.

So from those things, I think she has a reason to be concerned. But those are things that have nothing to do with bipolar necessarily, and everything to do with being abusive.

Also, it will depend on his visitation rights whether he can take the child from day care. Taking a child from daycare isn't a concern if it is a legal gaurdian necessarily, unless it's a constant issue or there is a threat of that person taking the child and running.
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