Mental Health & Pennsylvania Child Custody Disputes
Few issues are as sensitive as mental health. Millions of Americans struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, and as a society we do not do a good job of encouraging those struggling to seek professional help.
Mental health issues can definitely come up in Pennsylvania divorce, particularly with respect to child custody disputes. In this article, we look at three scenarios where a judge will consider mental health, and our Media divorce lawyers analyze how mental health issues could affect the judge’s child custody decision.
You Have a Mental Health Issue
If you have struggled with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition, let your attorney know. This information will probably come to light during a custody fight.
Pennsylvania judges decide custody based on the best interests of the child, and this includes considering which parent is better suited to raise a child. If you have struggled with a mental health condition, we need evidence that you are productively tackling the issue. This can include proof that you are on medication and/or have been attending therapy.
If you have a substance abuse problem, then proof that you have completed a 12-step or other program is also helpful. Addictions of all sorts (including gambling or spending addiction) must be taken as seriously as depression or another disorder.
Your Spouse Has a Mental Health Condition
In this situation, we can use this information to our advantage. It isn’t that we intend to exploit or embarrass your spouse. However, the judge needs to know if one parent has a diminished ability to care for the children.
Often, parenting lapses can be explained by mental health issues. For example, your spouse might have struggled to adequately feed or clothe the children, which might be the result of depression. Or your spouse could have withdrawn from your children as a result of anxiety, schizophrenia, or another issue. By bringing the mental health condition to light, we help explain to the judge your spouse’s troubling pattern of conduct.
Your Child Has a Mental Health Disorder
This is also a relevant factor in a child custody dispute. The parent who is better able to help treat a child’s mental health condition will be favored for custody. For example, one parent might have a history of taking the child to the doctor and being very proactive at ensuring the child takes their medication.
By contrast, a parent who has been in denial that their child has a mental health condition could be at a disadvantage in the eyes of the judge. This parent looks less likely to get their child the medical care that they need to succeed and may not get custody as a result.
Although these are sensitive issues to discuss, they can play an outsized role in any divorce. Call Barbara Flum Stein & Associates today to discuss your divorce. Our Media divorce lawyers have helped many parents seek custody, and we understand how judges analyze disputes. Schedule your initial consultation with us today.