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How Mental Illness Could Affect Parenting Arrangements

Posted on in Child Custody

Naperville family law attorneyThe National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates one in 25 people in the United States suffer from a serious mental illness. Many of that number are parents, and in Illinois and many other states, mental illness can and does play a role in parenting time determinations. In some cases, parental rights are limited because of a parent’s mental illness. If you are in the middle of a divorce, and you or your spouse is mentally ill, it is imperative to understand the rights of all involved before a custody determination can be made.

The Best Interests of the Child

In Illinois, the primary task before the courts when dealing with parenting time issues is to determine the best interests of the child. Mental illness issues are among the many factors that a family court judge will consider. Some of the others include the wishes of the child (if he or she is old enough for it to be appropriate), allegations or instances of abuse, and the ability of the parents to compromise in order to facilitate parenting time and responsibilities being shared.

If a parent is mentally ill, but there is no history of abuse, no difficulty in working with the other spouse, visitation is feasible, and the other factors fall in line, the illness may be discounted as a factor in apportioning parenting time. However, if mental illness contributes to abuse, neglect, or any other type of conduct that might result in harm to the child’s physical, mental or emotional well-being, it will be the conduct that is controlling, not the illness. In other words, if a mentally ill person physically abuses his or her child, he or she will likely be granted little or no parenting time because he or she committed abuse, not because he or she is mentally ill.

Substance Abuse Issues As Mental Illness

Substance abuse is a slightly more difficult area to navigate. In Illinois, substance abuse is often and treated as an illness, rather than just a pattern of behaviors. A person who engages in crime or other problematic conduct while under the influence, however, may still face consequences as a result. As with other mental illnesses, substance abuse may be managed or ameliorated by treatments, and as such, substance abuse does not necessarily disqualify a parent from being awarded parental responsibilities or parenting time.

It is important to note that the mere act of trying to get help for an addiction or substance abuse issues does not mean you will receive parenting time. While the goal of Illinois courts is usually to keep both parents in a child’s life, a family court will restrict or even terminate parental rights if it is shown under law that the parent is a danger to the child’s well-being.

Seek Experienced Legal Help

There are still some in the legal profession who might view mental illness as a disqualifier in terms of parenting, especially if your symptoms are visible or otherwise evident. However, the stigma is beginning to disappear. If mental health issues are affecting your divorce proceedings, contact an experienced Naperville family law attorney for guidance. Call 630-352-2240 for a confidential consultation at Pesce Law Group, P.C. today.

Sources:

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/GeneralMHFacts.pdf

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2098&ChapterID=59

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