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How Does My Spouse’s Mental Illness Affect Custody in the Divorce?


Living with someone who has mental illness can be difficult, but it can make the divorce even more difficult. If you have children, you may be wondering how your spouse’s mental illness will affect a child custody battle. If you have specific questions about this issue, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable Boca Raton child custody attorney who can give you personalized legal advice.

Mental Illness Affects Everyone

Someone who suffers from mental illness is not the only person affected by this disease. It can affect family members as well. Because of this, the Florida courts take the subject of mental illness very seriously when they are tasked with deciding on child custody. The state does want both parents in the child’s life, and the laws recognize the importance of both parents maintaining a bond with the child. However, the court also has to consider what is in the best interests of the child.

How the Courts Look at Mental Illness

In situations where the mentally ill spouse is seeking treatment, is on medication, and shows no problems, they may not have any issues obtaining custody. Just because someone suffers from mental illness doesn’t mean they are automatically penalized — as long as the illness does not affect him or her from meeting their child’s needs. Always remember, the court’s main objective is the child’s best interests, not the medical issues of the parents that dictate custody. If you’ve been diagnosed with a disorder, don’t assume you’ll never get custody and give up without a fight.

Proving Mental Illness

Where issues can arise is when a spouse denies the existence of mental illness. They assume that if they deny it, then they can hide the issue altogether from the court. In cases where the mental illness has gone undiagnosed for years, you may have difficulty proving it now. In the event your spouse received treatment in the past, your attorney can subpoena his or her medical records.

You may need to consider the use of experts who can talk about your spouse’s ability to care for the children. If your spouse went to see a mental health provider or psychotherapist on their own, that information is private and confidential. The courts recognize this confidential exchange of information, which means someone’s provider cannot easily testify against them to support your position for custody.

What an Expert Can Do

In order to be allowed to testify in Florida, the witness has to meet three sets of criteria. These are:

  • The testimony he or she plans to present must be based on enough solid data or facts;
  • Their testimony is compiled from reliable methods and principles; and
  • The witness has the qualifications necessary to express an opinion on the matter before the courts because they have already applied these methods and principles to the specific set of facts in the case.

Contact a Florida Child Custody Attorney

If you have questions about how your spouse’s mental illness can affect your child custody case, contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today to schedule an initial consultation. Let one of our skilled family law attorneys answer all your legal questions.

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