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Mental Health in Family Law: How Mental Illness Affects Divorce and Child Custody

Issues surrounding mental health and well-being are of utmost importance, not only in our daily lives but also in legal matters. Unsurprisingly, mental health concerns often arise in the context of family law, particularly divorce cases and child custody. Ending a relationship or marriage may cause any person to deal with the emotional impact of the situation, even if they don’t suffer from any mental disorder.

For instance, a couple may openly discuss with their children to go through divorce mediation to undergo separation and resolve issues such as child custody, child support, and visitation. This approach allows couples to reduce the mental and emotional impact of the divorce and make it less stressful for the family members involved.

Family disagreements and breakdowns can take a remarkable toll on the family’s mental health. These issues get even worse because of drugs, gambling, violence, money issues, and alcohol dependence. As a result, couples seek divorces to put an end to the situation, causing them to feel distressed, abnormally anxious, or depressed for long periods.

A wide range of mental health issues has a significant impact on family law cases, concerning separation and divorce. Below, we’ll learn how mental illness affects divorce, child custody, and the role of mental health professionals in family law.

Mental health concerns in divorce

Mental health issues inevitably arise in divorce cases because of the emotional impacts of the marriage separation. For example, a partner may have an undiagnosed mental health concern that causes the person to behave in ways that can negatively affect the relationship. The partner may manifest this through self-centered behavior, narcissism, aggression, excessive spending, and engaging in harmful behaviors that affect their partner and children.

To ensure the safety of the family, the other party may file for a divorce to make sure the children stay safe and protect the family’s assets. Ending the marriage can serve as an added stressor, causing the family to feel distressed for significant periods. This can also take a toll on someone who’s already suffering from a mental illness, causing them to react in ways that can negatively affect the situation, whether permanently or temporarily.

Without treatment, the affected party may turn to drugs and alcohol and may even get worse if the court orders the party to move out from the family residence while the case is ongoing. This approach is particularly harsh, which leads to the worsening of a mental condition. Without a support system, the person may suffer from serious conditions, especially if they fail to address their condition.

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Mental health concerns in child custody

There’s no specific rule on how mental health influences child custody since every case is entirely different. Factors may include the extent of the condition, willingness to seek help, and treatment options. No matter the factors involved, courts will always prioritize the best interest of the child to protect their emotional and physical safety.

For instance, if the parent suffers from a mental illness that can demonstrably affect the child’s safety, the court will consider this factor in deciding the child’s custody. There are also cases when having a mental health issue doesn’t automatically exclude the parent from getting child custody, but it can still influence the court’s decision. This happens when the parent’s mental condition negatively strains their relationship with their child, which urges the court to limit the parenting time.

The impact and development of the child custody case depend on the parent’s mental health condition. Serious disorders potentially lead to violent outbursts or hospital confinement. In this case, the court will likely favor the child custody of the other parent.

Otherwise, if the parent can effectively manage their mental illness, the impact on child custody will be less strict. If the parent is actively seeking therapies and medication to keep their symptoms at bay, the courts will not deny custody once the parent has presented evidence of the treatment.

The role of mental health professionals in family law cases

If a divorce case involved issues in child custody, a mental health professional comes in to provide mental health care and emotional support. Depending on the situation, these experts can address a range of issues, including perceptions, thoughts, and coping skills.

Mental health experts play a critical role in helping families achieve a settlement in a divorce or child custody. A therapeutic psychologist can help the family address their emotional health during the case and provide assistance by helping them transition after the case. The parties involved can ask their lawyer to refer the right mental health professionals to protect their family’s emotional welfare.

The lack of understanding about the nature of mental illnesses is one of the apparent flaws of family law practice. Preserving the interests of parties with mental health issues is very important to alleviate their symptoms and protect their mental health and well-being. In this regard, lawyers and other legal practitioners should take the initiative to understand mental illness to better counsel their clients in times of family crisis.

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