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How Do I Handle Mental Illness as Part of My Divorce?


As Orlando family attorneys, we regularly receive a number of questions about how to address a particular mental illness when it comes to divorce and related child custody and welfare issues. Given that one in five adults in the United States experiences a mental illness every year, and a significant percentage of these interfere with major life activities, it should come as no surprise that this issue comes up in divorce quite frequently.

There is no question mental health issues can contribute to a breakdown of a marriage, particularly if one or both partners are behaving in a way that is detrimental to the relationship. This can range from aggression, to excessive spending, to dangerous behavior involving children, and other concerning behaviors.

Steps That Must Be Taken Somewhat Urgently If Mental Illness Is Involved

If you feel that your partner is suffering from mental health issues and this is contributing to the divorce, once the petition for divorce is filed, there are a number of steps that will likely need to be taken somewhat urgently; steps which are not otherwise as urgent or of concern in relationships where mental health is not of concern for one or more individuals. Some of the steps include ensuring that your children are safe, coming up with treatment options if children are involved, and ensuring that assets of the marriage are not placed at risk. If the illness is so significant that there is concern that the other partner cannot make rational decisions and could be a danger to themselves or others, the court can appoint a guardian, especially if incompetence is involved. The courts also have the power to freeze accounts and block access to funds, as well as enable third-parties to pay for important expenses, such as housing and food.

How Courts Handle The Issue When Children Are Involved

Ultimately, when children are involved, the courts absolutely must act based on what is in the best interest of the child. If one parent alleges and is successful in proving that the other has a mental illness, the court will typically order an evaluation to be done by a licensed mental health provider and possibly limit that individual’s contact with children or order supervised visitation or exchanges. The court also has the ability to place conditions on visitation or parenting time spent with the children, such as requiring therapy or other safeguards that may be necessary to protect the children.

Cases Of Substance Abuse & Children Suffering From Mental Illness

When it comes to substance abuse that is part of the illness, the court can also order regular drug and/or alcohol testing alongside a report to be sent to the custodial parent with the results. In addition, when a child suffers from mental illness and parents disagree as to the illness and its treatment, the courts can also be petitioned for assistance as orders dictating treatment.

If You Have Any Questions, Contact Our Experienced Florida Family Law Attorneys

If you live in Florida and have any questions regarding mental illness as it affects family law issues, contact our experienced Orlando family law attorneys at Greater Orlando Family Law today to find out how we can help.



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