Because the managing partner of Lyons & Associates has a master’s degree in social work, the entire firm is particularly sensitive to issues of mental illness. In fact, New Jersey’s custody statute, N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 lists a parent’s health as one factor the Court must consider.
In custody determinations, courts are charged with putting arrangements in place that are in the best interests of the minor child. When one of the parents has been diagnosed with a mental illness, the court will likely take that factor into consideration when considering the best interests of the child. It can have an impact on custody and visitation.
The Court’s Examination of the Mental Illness of a Parent of Divorce
To be a factor in a custody determination, a mental illness must be one that the court finds to pose a realistic threat to the health, safety or well-being of a minor child. Accordingly, the court will typically evaluate the parent’s condition to determine whether it will affect the parent’s ability to meet the needs of the child. The court may require a mental health examination, may elicit testimony or evidence from the mentally ill parent’s therapist or psychologist/psychiatrist, and may obtain more than one opinion. Based on its investigation, the court may limit visitation, require supervised visitation or prohibit visitation until treatment is sought.
The court’s ruling, however, is not etched in stone. A parent who has just been diagnosed with a mental illness may encounter limitations on custody or visitation, but that parent may also petition the court for a modification of custody or visitation, based on the results of treatment. In a modification proceeding, the standard employed by the court will remain the same—will a grant of custody or visitation be in the best interests of the child?
Contact the Experienced New Jersey Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates
Contact our office online or call us at 908-575-9777 to schedule a confidential consultation. Lyons & Associates, PC, serves the entire state of New Jersey including Somerville, Bridgewater, Somerset, Basking Ridge, Mendham and Morristown.