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Supacase's avatar

What do you think about this potential custody issue?

Asked by Supacase (14523points) August 8th, 2012

A friend has a botched suicide attempt from 2 years ago on her medical records. All of her therapists and psychiatrists agree that it wasn’t truly an intentional attempt to end her life, but that’s how it reads. (It’s a complicated mess I’m not sure I fully understand.)

She is concerned about how this could work against her if she initiates a divorce. Even if not suicidal, it can appear as erratic behavior and her concern is that she will lose primary custody (or residency) of her children if her husband tries to use it against her.

My response was that she could then ask why her husband felt comfortable leaving the kids home with her every day for years while he worked if he feels she can’t be trusted as primary caregiver. Well, I have no idea if that holds any water. It made sense to me and I was trying to help her feel better.

I have no intentions of seeing an attorney to ask and I doubt she will anytime soon so I turn to my fellow Flutherites. What do you think?

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15 Answers

Imadethisupwithnoforethought's avatar

I think it depends on whether the guy is even going to fight for custody. Does she suspect he really will, or is she just using this as an excuse to procrastinate on the divorce?

jca's avatar

I think that for you, it’s not practical to speculate about her case, as you only know one side of the story. In addition, what the professionals have written in their reports and records does mean a lot, as you know, so that adds to the mix. Therefore, you and she can only wait and see what the outcome will be. Believe that she may be only telling you one side of the story on purpose, because there may be details that are embarassing and that she wants to hide.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think that she should consult with a divorce attorney.

If she has “a suicide attempt” in her past, then it assuredly was “an attempt to take her own life”. That’s the definition of suicide. It’s hard to finesse that, no matter how thick the eggshells are that you and she are walking on. Suicide is an intentional taking of one’s own life. “Botched suicide” only means that it was an unsuccessful attempt, not that it wasn’t intentional.

She needs to talk to an attorney, have him also consult with her therapists and psychiatrists, if necessary, and prepare to deal with the real issue, not pretend that it’s something other than what it was.

Supacase's avatar

Oh, I know I’m only hearing one side! I do know she has put off seriously considering divorce for this particular reason, but I don’t know if she has other reasons for putting it off or if she would ever actually go through with it.

She is a good mom and they have great kids. He’s a nice guy and a good dad. Joint custody would be likely, I think (?), it’s mostly where the kids would live that could be an issue and what worries her.

I’m just curious what the likely scenario would be even as a hypothetical because this was a new one for me.

trailsillustrated's avatar

It won’t matter. It was two years ago. They are going to be looking at her life now.

Supacase's avatar

@CWOTUS I’m just taking her word on the suicide thing.

CWOTUS's avatar

That’s why I’m saying that she should get real, face facts, and let an attorney help her to make the best case possible, not pretend that “a suicide attempt” was “not a real attempt to take her own life”. That’s a failure to admit reality.

Supacase's avatar

I know she needs to see an attorney if she pursues this and have told her that. What she chooses to do isn’t really my business. I’m only an ear.

I just wanted to hear what others think because I’m too curious to wait ?? years to find out (if it ever even happens.) It’s really more about the question, not her. I probably should have written the question differently.

gailcalled's avatar

Your phrase “all of her therapists and psychiatrists” makes me curious about how many she had. There is a lot of missing information…too much so for us to make an informed decision, I would think.

athenasgriffin's avatar

Tell her that she needs to get the best lawyer in town BEFORE she asks for a divorce if she believes there will be anger on his side. (Or even if she doesn’t. It is a good precautionary measure. There is only one best divorce lawyer in town. The best lawyer knows the best judge for the case, knows what things to bring up, knows what things not to bring up. )

It really shouldn’t be a problem if she gets a good lawyer. However, she should be prepared to tell her lawyer every little thing her husband has ever done wrong so it can be used against him in court. If she has a problem with this sort of mudslinging or can’t afford a lawyer she then should worry. However, there is a general sentiment that mothers make better caretakers, so that is in her favor no matter what.

My parents fought for my custody from the time I was six to eighteen. My mom had the best lawyer, which she acquired so quickly that when my dad called the same lawyer the next day she had already taken my mom on as a client.

augustlan's avatar

Your suggestion seems logical to me, but I’m not sure it would hold any weight in divorce court. The legalities are beyond me, but it could be something like “Doing the wrong thing (leaving the kids with her – not that I’m saying it’s wrong) for two years doesn’t mean we should keep doing it”.

wundayatta's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, having a suicide attempt doesn’t necessarily change one’s suitability as a parent. People get depressed. They get over it. Usually, the reason people stay alive if for their kids. They couldn’t do it to them. Taking kids away is more likely to make a person kill themselves, if anything.

As to what courts and doctors and lawyers think and do, I have no idea. Courts are supposed to want what’s best for the kids, but whether they figure that out depends on the competency of the court. Not all courts are equally competent and some are woefully incompetent. The same goes for lawyers.

Given the uncertainty of the adversarial system, I would say she is darn smart to be reluctant to get a divorce. But at a certain point, her marriage will get too bad for her sanity, anyway, and she will have to choose between sacrificing herself and the possibility of losing her children. Self-sacrifice is only marginally better than self-murder.

So it seems to me that if she can’t fix her marriage (and I assume she has already tried), then it is probably time to end it. She’s losing herself in the marriage, and in so doing, she is not really helping the kids. So she might as well end the marriage and save herself and possible save the kids as well.

Otherwise, she should follow the divorce guide advice. Snagging the best divorce lawyer sounds good to me. Although, if possible, a non-adversarial divorce is best. One idea I’ve heard is that neither party gets the house. The kids get the house and the parents take turns living in the house with the kids. That way there is the least upheaval for the kids. I hope these parents can keep the kids’ interests foremost, and keep any of their squabbling and retributions to a minimum. Anger and retribution are hard to keep at bay, but if people can do that, the kids will be better off.

JLeslie's avatar

Yeah, she needs a divorce lawyer who can tell her if judges take this sort of thing into consideration and tend to rule against a parent with that history. I think your logic is good, that he has left her with the kids for years, so why should anything need to change? But, if he comes up with recent behaviors she is demonstrating that might influence the judge and lead back to a tendency for depressed behavior and hurting herself, who knows? I don’t know the law, or how the courts look at these things. I will say that trying to take ones own life does not demonstrate necessarily a parent is unable to parent and keep their children safe and cared for.

I am a little confused, is he definitely going to try for custody? Does she think he would likely try? Or, is she just trying to think worst case scenerio? Most states lean towards 50/50 custody now I think. Unless a parent specifically fights for custody.

jca's avatar

Regardless of all that’s been said, it’s all up to the particular judge, and logic doesn’t always prevail in that case. Nothing is predictable when it comes to Family Court, and that includes each individual judge. Judges could justify their decisions very easily in either direction. Even if she has the best lawyer in the world, judges often make decisions that nobody can figure out. No matter what we say here about a previous suicide attempt and its affect on her parenting, a judge could be conservative with his opinion, and say the chidlren are at risk, or the children should not be with someone with serious mental health issues, or the judge could say all is well and everyone should be united. That’s why I say speculation is useless at this point.

Supacase's avatar

@gailcalled As i understand it, they were arguing and it was sort of a “calling your bluff” moment. As soon as she did it she was trying to ‘undo’ it, but she was hospitalized so it is on record. Both personal and hospital therapists & psychiatrists. Four total.

I don’t know specifics. I think she is thinking through worst case scenarios. I don’t think she’s confident enough to act on it anytime soon.

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