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Can Antidepressants Affect Child Custody in a Divorce?

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When someone is in an unhappy marriage, it’s normal for them to experience a wide range of unpleasant emotions, including anger and depression.

Depression Due to a Bad Marriage

Suppose you’re the one in a bad marriage and you’ve been unhappy for years. Aspects of your marriage may actually make you more susceptible to depression; for example, if your spouse has been cheating on you, or if your spouse has been verbally or physically abusive, or if your spouse is extremely controlling, or terrible with money – all of these circumstances can contribute to feelings of helplessness and sadness.

The depression that occurs from a bad marriage is different than clinical depression. When a person becomes depressed due to a bad marriage or a divorce, it’s called situational depression. Even though clinical depression and situational depression are different, they manifest in many of the same ways.

If your spouse has been having an affair, or verbally or emotionally abusing you or your children, you may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feeling worthless
  • Not wanting to get out of bed
  • Not wanting to leave the house
  • A loss of appetite
  • Ignoring family responsibilities
  • Ignoring household responsibilities
  • Avoiding people, including family
  • Inability to perform well at work due to trouble concentrating

When Your Spouse Uses Depression Against You

Whether a spouse has been diagnosed with clinical depression, or if they are understandably depressed because of the upsetting things going on in their marriage, such as constant arguing or belittling, it’s not uncommon for depressed spouses to seek help from their doctor.

Often, the treatments for situational depression or clinical depression will include antidepressants, psychotherapy, or anti-anxiety medication, along with alternative therapies.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for bitter spouses to say things like, “You’re a drug addict because you’re on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication and you can’t care for the kids” or “You won’t get the kids because you’re crazy and on meds” or “You’re unable to care for the kids because you’re depressed all the time.”

In these situations, often the depressed spouse will admit that their husband or wife is “the reason” behind their depression. Depressed spouses may want to leave their husband or wife, but they’re afraid they’ll lose their children in a divorce. So, the question is, can taking antidepressants hurt a parent’s chances of custody in a divorce?

Your Spouse Can Use It as Ammunition

Unfortunately, your spouse can use your depression (situational or clinical) and use of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to try and obtain custody of your children. However, your depression won’t necessarily bar you from getting primary physical custody. Still, your spouse can use your depression as a ploy to get the upper hand in the divorce.

Essentially, if your spouse says that you cannot properly care for the children because of your use of prescription drugs or otherwise and because of your mental state, the judge will be interested in learning more. It’s about whether you are being responsible and if you are caring for yourself and your children.

If it comes down to it, you may need to show the court that:

  • Your prescriptions were prescribed by a doctor,
  • You are taking your medications according to your doctor’s directions,
  • You are not abusing prescription drugs or illegal drugs (e.g. taking a prescription without a valid prescription),
  • Your medications are not adversely affecting your behavior, and
  • Your depression is not preventing you from taking care of your children.

If you can prove the above, then your depression and use of antidepressants should not adversely affect child custody. Remember, you are your children’s mother or father and your spouse’s allegations should not be enough to make you lose your children. As their mother or father, you have parental rights, and judges are not in the practice of severing such rights without good cause.

Don’t Let Your Spouse Threaten You

Is your spouse using your depression as ammunition against you? Is he or she saying that you won’t get the children because you’re on medication or too depressed to care for your children? If your answer is “yes” to either question, it’s time to contact a divorce attorney. In fact, if you can be the one to file for divorce first, you will be at an advantage.

By contacting a lawyer before your spouse does, you can address these issues that have you worried, and you’ll gain the peace of mind that you need right now. Once you file the divorce action and your spouse is served, your attorney can file a motion for temporary orders for child custody and where applicable, child and spousal support.

Unfortunately, it is very common for spouses to bully each other before and during a divorce. Divorce is already stressful enough and it’s made worse when a spouse threatens the other and makes him or her fear they will lose their children. Such conduct can make one feel uncertain about their future and it can make them question whether they should go through with the divorce.

Contact Claery & Hammond, LLP

When people are in stressful marriages, it is not uncommon for them to be prescribed antidepressants, even during a divorce. If you seek help from a doctor because you’re trying to stay in balance so you can shoulder your responsibilities as a parent and otherwise, then you’re not ignoring the problem. We urge you to contact our office to start your divorce action and get court orders as soon as possible, which will address child custody and all other issues that are concerning you at this time.


No matter your situation, our Los Angeles Divorce Attorneys, Lance Claery and Eli Hammond can help. Contact us today to protect your parental rights.


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