It is a great relief to many that the stigma surrounding seeking treatment for mental illnesses has lessened as much as it has in recent years. In many circumstances, mental health treatment has become routine even for patients who do not exhibit particularly alarming symptoms. In fact, recent statistics show that nearly 20% of American adults have been diagnosed with a mental illness at some time in their lives. If that is surprising, it is because the same privacy laws that protect nearly all health information also apply to mental health.
Unfortunately, though, things can get ugly in a divorce, especially when parents disagree about child custody arrangements. One parent sometimes argues that the other parent is unfit to spend a majority of the time with the children because of a pre-existing diagnosis of a mental health condition. If your former spouse does bring up your mental health history during divorce proceedings, will it affect the outcome of the case? Usually, it does not.
When Your Mental Health History Does Not Affect Parenting Plan Decisions
Under Florida’s current system of parenting plans, no two custody agreements are alike. The parenting-plan form is a multi-page questionnaire as long and complex as the longest tax forms. Each decision regarding the children is a separate question; it is not simply a matter of one parent getting all or most of the custody of the children. The parents’ private health information usually does not factor into which decisions the judge approves in the parenting plan. The main goal is to cause as little disruption in the children’s lives as possible. Consider that, if a parent were undergoing treatment for a physical illness while the parents were married, most of the time it would not be a factor in the parenting agreement. The same usually applies to mental illnesses. Furthermore, the parent’s psychiatrist cannot be asked to reveal the parent’s private health situation in court, except in the case of a true emergency, such as a suicide attempt or involuntary hospitalization.
When Your Mental Health History can Affect Parenting Plan Decisions
As stated above, a mental health emergency that happens during the divorce proceedings can become a factor in the case. Simply being treated for a mental illness currently or in the past is none of the court’s business. There is a considerable gray area where addiction is concerned, but if you are compliant with your addiction treatment and have a long record of sobriety since being diagnosed with an addiction, it should not preclude you from being able to spend a substantial amount of time with your children and having a strong voice in parenting decisions.
Contact Alan R. Burton About Child Custody Cases and Parenting Plans
If you think that a judge has unfairly used your mental health history against you, you can still seek to modify your parenting plan in a way that is more favorable to you. Contact Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, Florida about amending your parenting plan.
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