Following divorce the family law system focuses on ensuring the safety of the children involves. It can be scary for some parents to know that their ex-partner will have solo custody of their child, particularly if they have had issues with their mental health in the past. However given the tragic consequences when this is not adequately considered as shown in recent news stories.
Here are some tips on how to manage a divorce and child custody where you have concerns about your ex-partners mental health.
Submit medical evidence
If there is a history of psychotic episodes it is worth asking your lawyer if you can submit these in evidence. While mental illness itself, as with physical illnesses, does not preclude parent from caring for a child if there is a history where the other parent has not taken medication that they require and/or has had self harming or dangerous episodes then this evidence does have a direct bearing on the safety of a child.
Medical evidence can also be useful to demonstrate whether a parent has made reasonable to treat their condition, such as attending regular counselling sessions or looking for medication to help control their illness.
Submit eyewitness testimony
In many cases mental health issues are not adequately diagnosed and they can vary in intensity and type over different periods, including times of higher stress. In this case it can be worth getting eyewitnesses to add their impression of the parent's current fitness to care for their child. This is generally most powerful when it comes from third parties that are not related to either parent, such as day care staff or school teachers. These types of people have insight into the child and their parent and can provide a valuable source of neutral information to help a judge make their decisions.
Consider using a psychologist
If your child is seeing some behaviour that they scares them, it can be worth getting the child professionally assessed. This can be useful if the mental illness is sporadic and/or worsening. It can be important to show that the child is being affected by the problem as the court will take any distress as a serious issue.
If you are worried about your ex-partners ability to look after your child due their mental illness you should speak to an experienced family lawyer. They can help to petition the court for an arrangement that keeps your child happy and safe.