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Divorce, custody, and bipolar.


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My husband and I are getting divorced. He says he talked to a lawyer who said there is no way I'd get custody of our two kids because of my mental illness. Is this true? I take my meds regularly and see my pdoc. I am, for all intents and purposes, stable.

I'm in the process of getting a lawyer, but I have very little money, so I am having to go through Legal Aid.

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How long have you been stable? When you had periods of instability, what were they like and how long did they last? How old are the kids? You're in the U.S., I presume?

Unfortunately, in cases like these, it usually comes down to who can afford the best lawyer. But sometimes you can get really lucky and get very good help through agencies like Legal Aid. I would also look for support groups for women in your area as they may able to hook you up with other agencies that can provide legal assistance.

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My manic periods are mainly spending money, talking fast, not sleeping, etc. My depressive periods are mainly crying a lot. I've not attempted suicide or even thought about it in over two years.

I have a 3 yr old and an 11 month old. I've been stable since March when I began taking meds again after I finished breastfeeding my youngest.

I am fairly paranoid, but never violent. I have been my kids primary caretaker (stay at home mom) since birth and they've never been abused or neglected by me. They are intelligent, healthy, happy, and well-adjusted.

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If you had a history of being in and out of mental hospitals, you could have some trouble. But since that isn't the case, it sounds like your future ex is just trying to scare you. You may need to have your pdoc testify as to your mental state, but that shouldn't be a big deal. The whole custody thing varies from state to state, and you may or may not have to go through mediation, etc.

Just make sure you do have a good lawyer...not just some slacker who only wants your fees. And NEVER believe someone when they say

"Well MY lawyer SAID....blah blah blah!!!!"

Half the time they are lying...or only heard what they wanted to hear...NOT what the lawyer REALLY said.

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Guest isaacb

I agree, this is far from an open and shut custody battle. It certainly doesn't help, but my experience has been that how one presents oneself makes a huge difference in how people perceive one's mental illness - legal professionals and judges are no different in that. If you've never been hospitalized, and never displayed psychotic symptoms, you can make a very good case that this is mudslinging in an attempt to weigh the case against you. Check out those women's organizations like the above poster said - I can't stress this enough. I have a few friends who would save themselves a lot of grief if they would do this. Also, I don't know what state you're in, but in many states custody disputes are weighted on the side of the mother by default. One of the few times the double standard actually works in womens' favour. Even if your husband's attorney did say that to him, which is suspect, and even if he wasn't just saying it to get more money out of a prospective client, which I wouldn't count on, he doesn't know any better than your soon-to-be-ex-husband what the outcome will be. It depends on your attorney, your judge, the way that you handle yourself and don't flinch from questions about it, and luck. The most important thing may be to not act ashamed of it or like you were trying to hide it. Acknowledge that yes, you have had some depression and some impulse spending in the past, but these are no more reflections of your ability to raise a child than the city you were born in, or what color your hair is.

Mind you, I'm not a lawyer and I strongly suggest you consult a good one, but under no circumstances should you let him convince you to give up. In most places in the US, all he has done is level the playing field, not stack it against you.

-Isaacb

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If you have a lawyer who understands that you DO deserve custody and not some asshole, a pdoc who is willing to testify, and if it comes down to it, even other people to testify as to your parenting abilities, then I don't think you should have an issue. while it does vary from state to state, i think it is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. i've been a foster mother and i'm bipolar.

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