Dr Schwartz. Me andmy ex husband have just recently went back to court due to his mental status. I think he has been sick for a long time. Recently he has had no contact with the children for 2 months it’s one excuse after another. He contantly makes decisions and then changes his mind. He has threatened suicide also.His mother called me yesterday to tell me he wad dxd with bipolar, and any papers he signed for custody would be thrown out of court. Apparently bipolar runs in his whole family on his mothers side, as she has it to. Im scared for my children to be wit him even though I have been trying to get him to see the kids, but my children who are 4 and 2 cry to come home because daddy just sits there all day and wants quiet.Im at a loss I dont know what I need to do next.
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The decisions you are going to make with regard to your ex husband and his involvement with the children should be guided by his response to the medication that I presume he will be taking for his Bipolar Disorder. Depending on how serious his disorder is he it is possible that he will feel and function a lot better with the proper medication. Of course, if he refuses to take medication then it would not be a good idea for him to have the children alone and without supervision.
The nature of Bipolar Disorder is that it runs along a continuum from extremely to serious to less serious. An example of a serious condition is one in which a person is either extremely manic and out of touch with reality or is extremely depressed and in danger of suicide. From what you have described your ex husband has the type of Bipolar Disorder that is dominated more by depression than anything else. That is the reason why he sits and does nothing when he has the children. It is also why he feels suicidal. By the way, the danger of suicide with Bipolar Disorder is very real if it is not treated.
Frankly, your children are too young to left alone with your husband while he remains in his present mental state. In terms of the court, a supervisor can be appointed to be present and in charge while the children visit their father. On the other hand, if he simply does not have to energy to see them why insist that he sees the kids? They are so very young that they can afford to wait until he improves if and when he starts medication and therapy.
People usually make very good adjustments to medications used for this disorder. The few exceptions would be for those people who may be extremely sick and may take longer to recover.
A lot also depends on how willing he is to take responsibility for his illness and his behavior. Those people who feel motivated to recover, go to therapy, take their medication and monitor their behavior are the ones who make full recoveries.
In a way, your husband is right in not wanting the pressure of being with the children while he is so very ill. His recovery will depend a lot on medication and therapy and on remaining as free of stress as is possible. The stress of watching small children would be too much for him at this time.
My suggestion would be to allow him to start medication and, depending on how well he improves, allow him to see the children under supervised conditions. Later, if and when he recovers more fully, he might be allowed to have them with him alone, but certainly not at this point. Again, a lot will depend on how motivated he is to recover. You will have to make decisions based on how much he wants to get better and how much better he allows himself to get.
One caution to point out to you: Your ex husband must not drink or abuse street drugs such as marijuana, etc, because that will make his condition worse even if he takes medication. The reason I make this caution is that it is common for people with this illness to abuse alcohol or other substances before they are made aware of their illness. Many people with this problem do stop drinking and abusing drugs but some do not and the latter never fully recover.