The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Each year, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (“NAMI”) joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. For the year 2021, the message “You Are Not Alone” is the amplifying theme for the month. This theme is relevant now more than ever, given that the resounding impacts of COVID-19 have left many people feeling isolated and alone during these challenging times. Mental illness affects every aspect of a person’s life, especially if that person is facing divorce and/or a child custody battle. Although it can be difficult to talk about, sharing your struggles with others to get the help you need will be highly beneficial for your family law case.
While every child custody case is different with its own unique circumstances, the court will always use the “best interests of the child” standard as one of the guiding lights for making decisions in cases involving child custody. As a result, the mental illness of either one or both parents is a factor that can be taken into consideration by the court. Although there is no definite formula for how the court will treat this factor, the court will undoubtedly consider variables such as the severity of the condition, treatment options available, the willingness of the parties to seek help, and whether the mental illness affects the child’s safety. Therefore, acknowledging the illness and seeking the appropriate help and treatment options can minimize the weight the factor is given when the court considers the child’s best interests.
The first step is to prioritize your mental health, especially if you are going through a divorce and/or child custody battle. This can be accomplished by acknowledging the mental illness to enable you to get the support and help needed to live a healthy and fulfilling life. No one should feel alone in their struggle with mental health, and despite COVID-19 there are plenty of safe ways to connect with others while still adhering to the recommended social distancing guidelines. Your family law attorney can often be a great resource for recommending counselors and other advocates that will enable you to get the help you need. Because family law issues involve high stress for many, you most likely are not the first client the attorney has had who struggles with a mental illness, and you certainly will not be the last.