Many adults experience mental illness during their lifetime. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in any given year. While mental illness can be naturally occurring, it can also be triggered by major events in your life, such as divorce. Mental illness will not typically factor into divorce decisions, but it can be an issue to address when making decisions related to children, namely, decisions about parenting time or decision-making responsibilities.
Elements to Consider When Making Child-Related Decisions
Any child-related issue that must be settled during a divorce is made in the child’s best interests. If the parents disagree on what is in the child’s best interests, then a judge will have to intervene and make decisions about the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities for the parents. When making these decisions, the judge will look at various factors, including:
- The wishes of the child, taking into account the child’s maturity
- The ability of the parents to cooperate with each other
- The level of conflict that may exist between the parents
- The wishes of each parent
- The needs of the child
- The ability and willingness of both parents to facilitate a close and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent
- The mental and physical health of both parents and the child
It is the judge’s job to understand the family dynamic as accurately as possible so that he or she can ensure the child has a happy and healthy life.
Mental Illness and the Decision Process
While mental illness is not the most important factor in making child-related decisions, it is an element that should be factored into the judge’s decision. The mental health of both the parents and the child are considered when making decisions about parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Some parents may fear that having a mental illness will automatically mean their parental rights will be restricted, but that is not necessarily true.
Once the judge learns that a parent has a mental illness, he or she will then consider the type of mental illness, the severity of the illness, and how the illness affects the parent’s day-to-day life. The judge will also want to know if the parent is seeking help for his or her illness. For example, a parent who has a history of depression but is actively taking medication and/or attending therapy will probably not see much of an impact on their parental rights. On the other hand, a parent who suffers from severe bipolar disorder and refuses to seek treatment may have their parental rights restricted in order to ensure their child’s safety.
A St. Charles Family Law Attorney Can Answer Your Questions
A divorce can be a scary and uncertain time for many parents, but that can be exacerbated when mental illness is involved. If you are worried that a mental health diagnosis may affect your parental rights, or if you are concerned about your children’s safety due to your ex-spouse’s mental illness, the attorneys at Goostree Law Group will advocate for your children’s best interests throughout the divorce process. For help addressing issues related to parenting time or the allocation of parental responsibilities, contact our experienced Kane County divorce lawyers at 630-584-4800 to schedule a free consultation.