In doing what is right for the children caught in the crossfire of a child custody situation, courts are forced to evaluate the competency of each parent and go through their history not just as a husband and a father, but also as a person.
Whether it is one’s criminal record or work history, aspects of a person’s life can be inspected, in order to come to the decision of custody.
A parent’s current and former health issues are no exception.
Courts are making their decisions based on the best interests of the child. Examining health issues that may arise is an act that has the child’s needs in mind, especially when those health issues require psychiatric attention.
Utilizing therapy and other mental health resources is nothing to be ashamed about. Many of those who go through the struggles related to child custody may not always see it that way. This is especially true if the psychiatric treatment is recommended or required by the court.
A study examined the perception that many parents, who are treated in public mental health settings, have. This perception reflects the possibility that they may lose child custody or visitation, if they do not adhere to treatment.
The study, published in the Psychiatric Services journal, interviewed 1,011 adult outpatients from five community mental health centers located in five states in different regions of the United States.
The results of the study showed that of the parents of children ages 16 and younger, 19 percent of them perceived in the past six months that they may lose child custody or visitation if they did not adhere to treatment.
The results also showed that family members were perceived as the most prevalent source of the perception that psychiatric treatment may affect custody at 42 percent, followed by the Department of Social Services at 28 percent, and themselves at 19 percent.
The study compared its results to prior studies of actual custody loss and found that the proportion of study participants who perceive this risk was low.
Inform your attorney
It is important for any client to inform their attorney of any preexisting mental health concerns or mental health treatment they are receiving or have previously received. They need to be aware of all of the facts that may be used to harm their client.
This is not a condemnation of receiving mental health treatment, but it is important to understand that a lawyer representing your co-parent may attempt to spin the receiving of treatment as a negative and use it to justify denying parenting time or custody outright.
Mental health professionals
In order to combat some of the negative perceptions that receiving psychiatric treatment may cause, it is necessary to have qualified mental health professionals testifying on your behalf. These professionals can speak to any progress that you may have made and to your current state as a person, as well as how you would handle being a more active parent.
However, it is important to remember the expenses that can be accrued, in subpoenaing a doctor or medical records. That being said, these costs are less expensive than obtaining a psychological evaluation.
These are important aspects to consider, especially when you already may be paying child support. Part of the child custody process includes being able to prove to a judge that you can provide for your children, and without the consideration for your finances, you may not be able to do so.
It also can be beneficial to understand some of the resources that the court may employ, in order to better understand the scope of a parent’s mental state. Courts can schedule meetings where parents and children see psychologists, whose guidelines are developed by the American Psychological Association.
These guidelines are what psychologists have to follow when making their determinations of child custody. By educating yourself on these guidelines, you are preparing yourself for what they are looking for in a custodial parent.
The courts also may utilize the Personality Assessment Inventory (PAI) as a tool in aiding their efforts in determining child custody. This resource assesses a broad range of clinical variables and interpersonal functioning in clinical and forensic settings. It has been used frequently in the evaluation of adults by forensic psychologists.
When utilized in the context of child custody, the PAI tends to create an atmosphere that is more inclined to look at a situation more positively, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychology and Clinical Psychiatry.
While educating yourself on these resources and finding qualified mental health professionals to testify on your behalf are beneficial tactics to improve your standing during a child custody evaluation, it is vital that you handle yourself with the respect that the court demands. Outbursts and emotional moments can be seen and interpreted to fit specific narratives that the opposing counsel may be attempting to create.
You need to keep yourself calm and composed, not just for your sake, but also for the sake of your children. It is for them that you are fighting, and it is crucial that you, as their parent, remember that. You need to recognize that despite any mental health issues that may have come up, you still can fight to be the parent that you want to be.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.
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