The priority in divorce or custody proceedings is determining the best interests of the children. A judge will examine several different factors when they consider custody issues. Because May is Mental Health Month, we thought it would be helpful to offer some thought on mental health and the important issue of child custody.
Generally speaking, judges favor joint custody because family experts believe that it is best for children if both parents are active in raising a family. Some parents will no doubt fear that a diagnosis of addiction, a bipolar disorder, depression or some other illness will impact their custody arrangement or parenting plan, it is essential for parents to get diagnosed as soon as possible.
A diagnosis can help
A judge will see a red flag if there is evidence that a parent is unable to care for themselves or their family. Proactively seeking help, on the other hand, shows the judge (and even the other spouse) that the parent with mental illness issues is addressing them and finding solutions.
Important information that should be shared with an attorney and the judge include:
- Are the children at risk?
- What are the protocols in treating this illness?
- Are there negative side-effects to the treatment?
Do not assume illness precludes joint custody
Many believe that early diagnosis is the key to success. Mental illnesses are common and treatable, either through counseling or medication. While they may issue a court order regarding treatment obligations or evaluation, judges are often willing to give parents a fair chance.
This is an issue that both sides need to address
Regardless of whether a client is the spouse seeking treatment or not, the interests of the children are the priority. The ill should be clear about whether they can perform parental duties. Conversely, the other parent could do more harm than good if they attempt to punish the ex-spouse. Experienced family attorneys have seen this issue from both sides, and can provide knowledgeable guidance on how to handle this delicate family issue.