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What role could mental illness play in your custody?

During the month of May, the National Association for Mental Health advocate for people who suffer from recognized or unrecognized mental health issues. These issues can have a significant impact on a marriage, a divorce or even a custody battle.

When people struggle with mental health, they sometimes keep their struggles private for fear of social stigma or judgement. Although mental health is technically private, it is relevant information for your legal team. This includes children or adults.

An experienced attorney will know the appropriate questions to ask and how to use your answers to help your case. Even suspected mental health issues, when relevant, could impact your case.

Relevant information related to mental health concerns to mention to an attorney could include the following:

  • Prescribed medications you’ve witnessed them taking or on their person.
  • Concerning behavior or actions.
  • Memories of frequent doctor visits or serious medical procedures.

It is important to remember that psychological information is privileged medical information. Even if it is your child or your spouse, you may need to jump through several legal “hoops” to find and use this information appropriately in court.

In cases of suspected or worsening mental health issues, a court can also appoint a trained professional to conduct a psychological evaluation of an adult or a child. This can help in the absence of a diagnosis, after a recent traumatic event or a sudden change in behavior.

Children with behavioral issues and unstable parents complicate custody arrangements. Children must be placed in a home that keeps them safe and meets their needs.

If you know or believe a parent is unsuited to care for a child in this way, it is important to mention this during a custody arrangement. Although staying silent may feel like you are respecting their privacy, it could eventually endanger the child.

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