Custody Issues | Symptoms & Treatment Options | Zencare — Zencare

Custody Issues

The prospect of any changes to our relationships with our children is, understandably, distressing. This is an issue many people face during the process of separation or divorce, when custody arrangements must be negotiated. Yet, it is important for the child’s wellbeing that a compromised plan is reached for their ongoing custody and support.

Aside from worry about the child and what it means for the future, negotiating custody can be time-consuming, entail stressful legal proceedings and fees, high conflict with the other parent, and mental health challenges. It can be difficult for you and your child to adjust to any changes in your relationships.

When the challenges associated with custody issues become especially prolonged or intense, they can lead to symptoms of common mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. During this stressful time, it can be helpful to seek therapy for additional support.

Data from the 2016 Current Population Survey (CPS) indicates that (1):

This data suggests that many people have to negotiate custody issues and related challenges. Divorce and separation are associated with increased anxiety and depression, and increased risk of alcohol abuse (2). Another study found that mothers who lost custody of their children were at higher risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to mothers dealing with the death of a child (3).

Divorce and separation are also associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents (4, 5). Parental mental health can also impact on the wellbeing of children, compounding their vulnerability during the process of separation and custody changes.

People react in different ways when faced with stressful situations like child custody. Some of the common mental health challenges include:  

Types of custody issues

What to do if you experience custody issues

There are many things you can do to look after yourself and the wellbeing of your child. This is important, in order to work towards the best future outcomes for you all. Consider a combination of the following:

Therapy types to consider

There are a number of different types of therapy that you could consider for yourself and your child for challenges associated with custody issues. Therapy types include:

What to look for in a therapist for challenges associated with custody issues

The best-fitting type of therapist will depend on individual factors, symptoms, your location and finances. You’ll want to consider whether you are seeking therapy for yourself, your child, both, or even perhaps with the child’s other parent. When selecting a mental health professional, it can be helpful to consider the following factors:

Personal fit

When you are seeking therapy for any reason, it’s important to consider the potential for developing a strong working relationship with your therapist. The trusting working relationship with a therapist is called the therapeutic alliance, and it’s the number one indicator of treatment efficacy.

Qualifications and experience

It is important to look for a licensed mental health professional. This ensures that the therapist you work with has undertaken the appropriate education and training. You might want to look for a therapist who specializes in family systems, or working with children, for example.

Talk in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call. Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

New to therapy? Learn about how to find a therapist here.

Sources and references