How Can a Parent’s Mental Illness Affect Child Related Issues in a Divorce?
Millions of adults in the U.S. deal with mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia. Divorced and unmarried parents often have questions about how mental health can influence the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. Illinois courts make every child custody decision with the child’s best interests in mind. So, if a parent suffers from a mental health condition that affects his or her ability to care for the child and keep the child safe, this can certainly influence the court’s decision. However, Illinois law clearly states that parental conduct that does not affect the child should not be considered during custody determinations.
Navigating child custody and divorce issues when a parent has a mental illness can be complex and confusing. The best way to receive trustworthy guidance is to speak to a family law attorney experienced in complex child-related issues.
Allegations of Mental Health Disorders in Illinois Family Law Cases
If a parent is concerned about the other parent’s mental health, he or she can request that the parent undergo a professional mental health evaluation. Parents who request a mental health evaluation should know that they may also be required to undergo the assessment. They may also be required to pay for the cost of the evaluations. During an evaluation, the evaluator may ask the parent about his or her thoughts and feelings, assess the parent’s cognitive functioning, and observe the parent’s behavior.
The court may also require parents to participate in a custody evaluation or a “604.10 evaluation” to assess the parent’s fitness. Sometimes, a guardian ad item (GAL) is assigned to the case if a parent’s mental wellbeing is called into question. The GAL’s job is to gather information about each parent as well as the parents’ homes and living environment. The GAL may visit each home and look for safety concerns, interview neighbors, teachers, or childcare workers, evaluate the child’s school and medical reports, and more. The GAL uses this information to make an educated recommendation regarding parental responsibilities and parenting time to the court.
Contact a DuPage County Child Custody Lawyer
If your mental health has been questioned during a divorce or child custody dispute, or you have concerns about your child’s safety with the other parent, contact MKFM Law for help. Our Wheaton family law attorneys have helped many parents tackle issues related to parenting time, parental allocation, child support, and much more. Call our office at 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation.