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Can a possession order be affected by the mental health problems of a parent?

Caring for the health and safety of Texas children is the responsibility that the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is charged with upholding. The populations that the agency serves are among the least represented and most at need in our State.

When a report comes in to their investigators that a parent is neglecting or abusing their child, it is the job of the DFPS employee to fully investigate the situation and to make recommendations as to how (if at all) the State is to proceed in order to maintain the safety and well being of the child.

Restrictions on visitation, possession and access are often times court ordered in regard to the parent who has abused or neglected a child. If the actions of a parent are so egregious that a “second chance” is deemed to be not appropriate, the Department is even able to petition a court to terminate the parental rights of a mother or father. If this type of situation has piqued your interest then you will want to follow the remainder of this blog post closely.

An example from my experiences as a family law attorney

I was recently involved in a case that saw a mother be ordered to extremely limited possession of her daughter after it was determined that her mental health was not well. One day per month was all that this woman was awarded by a judge due to her perceived inability to make consistently good decisions for the well being of her child and herself.

The Department of Family and Protective Services had to intervene into the family’s life due to reports of the mother not taking medication that was necessary for her to be mentally stable. The result of her failure to take the medicine was that she would often times lash out in anger at her child and would at the very least not have the energy or desire to feed, bathe or generally care for her daughter.

An investigator for the Department actually had to physically remove the child from her mother’s care due to the drug use and mental health struggles of the mother. If suicidal thoughts and multiple trips to inpatient facilities and hospitals are not enough of a sign to you that this outcome is a possibility then hopefully the remainder of this anecdote will be.

No family member of the removed child was able to provide the sort of care that the Department deemed sufficient to place the child into their care for an extended period of time. Foster care was the next avenue that the Department went down and eventually the child was placed with her father and he was able to provide sufficient care for the child.

As time elapsed and the mother was able to improve her mental health and take positive steps towards rehabilitating herself, the Department sought to create a permanent set of orders for the child’s parents to operate from. Despite the best efforts of the mother the judge in her case ordered only once a month visitation for the child and mother until one year had elapsed. At that time, the parent would be able to gain standard possession of the child.

What is in the best interest of the child?

Any family law court in our State must make decisions regarding a child based on what the judge believes to be in that child’s best interests. This is an especially important consideration to make when factoring into consideration that the mental health of one the child’s parents is in question. A standard possession order is assumed to be in the best interests of a child. This is due to the fact that our state has at the core of its public policy that both parents of a child should play continuous and ongoing roles in rearing that child.

A court will consider evidence that can counter this assumption, however. Certainly the individual needs of the child as well as their age will be factored in to any decision arrived at by a judge. On top of that, circumstances surrounding either parent will also be looked into before any order is rendered as to possession of the child moving forward.

Taking the circumstances of the child into consideration when deviating from a standard possession order

In the case that we’ve been discussing in this blog post, the court reasoned that because the mother was having difficulty with allowing the child to leave her possession and enter the possession of her ex spouse, that a “stair step” method towards standard possession would be in the child’s best interest.

Stair stepping refers to the gradual build up of possession that a parent is able to take advantage of with a child. At first the possession may be fairly limited, but eventually the expectation is that the parent is able to build themselves up more time through following court orders and remaining mentally stable.

Since the court laid out these orders for the mother, I can report that she has been following the guidelines set forth by the court and is doing everything she can to strengthen her mental health. A family law case is extremely difficult even for the most mentally strong among us. If you have a mental handicap or suffer from mental health issues you should know that you are not alone and that your rights as a parent are just as valid and important as any other Texas parent.

Questions about child custody and mental health issues? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any additional questions about areas such as mental health, child custody or possession then please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan today. One of our licensed family law attorneys will be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation and answer any questions that you may have. A consultation is free of charge and are available six days per week.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
  2. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
  3. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
  4. Child Protective Services: Investigation Essentials for Texas Families
  5. CPS and how The Law Office of Bryan Fagan can help
  6. Child Custody Basics in Texas
  7. Texas Child Visitation Modification
  8. 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
  9. Supervised Visitation in a Texas Divorce: Can it happen to me?
  10. Protective Orders in Texas Family Law Cases

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defenseLawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our CPS defenselawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles CPS defense cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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