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Knoxville Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Child Custody > Co-Parenting a Child Who Requires Residential Treatment for Mental Health Issues

Co-Parenting a Child Who Requires Residential Treatment for Mental Health Issues


Getting appropriate mental health treatment for a child is a major challenge, even when the child’s parents are happily married to each other.  Managing one’s mental health is a marathon, not a sprint, even in the best of circumstances.  Determining whether a psychiatric medication is working, building trust with a therapist, and advocating for oneself in an academic environment and with peers are hard work even for adults.  When divorced parents disagree about a child’s mental health treatment, they risk undoing the stability the child has had to struggle so hard to attain.  If your ex-spouse is undermining your efforts to help your child live and thrive with a mental illness, contact a Tennessee child custody lawyer.

When It Is in the Child’s Best Interest to Remain at a Residential Treatment Facility, Not at Either Parent’s House

Alisha McBee and Joseph Colley divorced in 2006, when their son was two years old; both parents subsequently remarried.  In 2008, Alisha, who was the primary residential parent pursuant to the permanent parenting plan, moved to Maryland with the child.  Starting when he was four, even before moving to Maryland, the child showed signs of serious mental health problems, behaving violently toward his mother, his half-sister, and several family pets.  In 2010, he was hospitalized for the first time after he broke a towel rack off of the bathroom wall and attacked his mother with it.

The child received a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an autism spectrum disorder, and a mood disorder.  Doctors prescribed several medications to help manage his moods and behavior.  During this time, when the child went to visit his father in Tennessee, Alisha would only send enough medication for the days scheduled for the visit; she did not account for what would happen if the child had to stay longer with his father.

In 2012, Joseph petitioned the court to make him the child’s primary residential parent.  He claimed that Alisha was not managing the child’s care well; he claimed that the child’s medication made him act “like a zombie.”  He also alleged that Alisha did not keep him updated on the child’s treatments.  By this time, the child was living at a residential treatment center for children with serious psychiatric problems in Maryland.  A psychiatrist and two social workers who had worked with the child testified that, while the child was doing well in the residential facility, he would probably need to stay there a long time.  The court ruled that, since Alisha had been more involved in taking care of the child, she should remain his primary residential parent.  When Joseph appealed, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

Life is hard enough for children and teenagers living with mental illness; the last thing you need is to have your ex undermining your decisions about your child’s care.  Contact Knoxville child custody lawyer Patrick L. Looper for help today.


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