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Florida Parenting Plans and Parents’ Mental Health


The good news is that society’s awareness of mental health and mental illness are increasing, and thus, the stigma against seeking treatment for a psychiatric illness has lessened during our lifetimes.  Today, nearly one in five Americans has received a diagnosis of a mental illness at least once in their lifetime.  Now that almost everyone knows someone who has received treatment for clinical depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an eating disorder, people are less likely to think of mental illness as the exclusive province of serial killers and movie villains.  Unfortunately, though, when child custody battles get ugly, parents sometimes try to use their ex-spouse’s mental health history as a reason that their ex-spouse should have less parenting time.  If your ex tries this underhanded tactic, you have several legal rights on your side, from the right to medical privacy to the courts’ obligation to base child custody decisions on the children’s best interests.  Consult a South Florida child custody lawyer about how your mental health history does or does not affect your child custody case.

Co-Parenting When One Parent Has a Chronic Illness

It would be an oversimplification to say that the parents’ health does not factor into the parenting plan.  For example, if one parent is legally blind and cannot drive, it would be unfair for the court to hold that parent responsible for transporting the children to and from the other parent’s house.  Unless there is some extraordinary, compelling reason making it infeasible, the goal is for both parents to have a stable relationship with the child, and that means working with the parents’ health concerns instead of against them.  Consider the Tennessee case where the mother suffered from mobility impairments; she argued that she could not spend overnights away from the child because she needed the child’s help with tasks of daily life, but the father argued that her disability limited her ability to care for the child.  The court rejected both arguments and ordered a visitation schedule that would give both parents sufficient time with the child; it also ordered the father to pay spousal support to cover his share of the costs of the mother hiring a home health aide to assist her on the days when her daughter was not with her.

Despite what your ex-spouse might say, most mental illnesses do not prevent you from caring adequately for your children.  Medical privacy laws make it such that your ex cannot access your medical records without your consent.  If your ex does try to make your mental health history an issue, your medical records are on your side; they will show that you have been receiving treatment and that, if you stopped taking medication, it was only after your doctor advised you to do so.  You can even have your doctor or mental health counselor testify.  Only true emergencies, like suicide attempts or involuntary hospitalizations, warrant changes to the parenting plan.

Let Us Help You Today

Don’t let your ex intimidate you; your prescription for antidepressants does not make you unusual or an unfit parent.  Contact the Boca Raton family lawyers at Schwartz | White for assistance with your case.





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