Mental health issues come into consideration in many facets of family law. For example, in considering factors relating to custody and visitation, the court is required to look at the mental health of both parents and the children.
When taking all mental health considerations in various family law cases in Virginia such as a divorce or child custody, a Virginia family lawyer will be an important aid as they will do their best in respecting all parties, protecting their rights, and determining the best interest for those involved in any family law matter.
Impact on Determinations
Mental health can come into play in making determinations relating to child and spousal support. If one or both parties have some sort of mental health related issue that impacts their ability to earn income to their capacity that is going to be considered by a court. Mental health also comes into play in the divorce process. It is an emotional process. While lawyers do not have the psychological degrees that are required to help parties get through that, there are certain grieving and anxiety processes that a family lawyer will help a party to navigate.
Parties, especially in the context of collaborative divorce, can engage the services of coaches whose purpose is specifically to help the parties manage their emotions during such a difficult process, while making important decisions about how property is going to be divided, how custody is going to be shared, and whether support is going to be paid.
For spousal support, mental health issues come into consideration in Virginia in terms of whether they impact the ability of the party requesting alimony to work or the limitations on the higher earning spouses work. Most commonly, they relate to the person requesting alimony. If a person seeking alimony has some sort of limitation in terms of their earning capacity as a result of a diagnosed mental illness, the court is going to take that into consideration when determining the financial need of that party. If a person has a legitimate diagnosis that prevents them, for example, from holding a steady full-time job and that is established based on expert testimony and evidence, the court is not going to have the expectation that that person is going to work a full-time job.
When it comes to custody and visitation, mental health can have an impact in various different ways. For example, if a parent has a mental health issue that impacts their ability to parent, the court is going to consider that in fashioning a custodial schedule. These kinds of things often include an addiction to some sort of drug or alcohol, a serious mental health diagnosis, or one that is maybe not as serious but the person who is diagnosed is not treating it properly. All of these things can impact the custodial schedule that the court creates.
It is important to note that if a parent suffers from a relatively minor mental health issue, such as general anxiety or depression whether situational or general and it is something that the person is properly managing and it does not impact their ability to be a good parent, those kinds of things are not going to impact the court’s decision in determining a custody schedule.
A guardian is a person appointed to make important legal decisions on behalf of the person who does not have the capacity to do so by themselves. There are certain attorneys qualified as ‘guardian ad litem’ and can serve as a legal guardian for somebody who has some sort of mental incapacity. In those cases, what the legal ‘guardian ad litem’ will do is make decisions in the best interest of the person with the mental health issue also known as the ward.
The guardian is not responsible for carrying out the exact wishes of their ward. Instead, the guardian’s job is to take in all the information that is available and make a decision as to the person’s best interest in the event that decision is against the wishes of the ward. The idea is that the person with mental health issue does not have the ability to make decisions for themselves properly.
Working with an Attorney
It is important for a family lawyer to have a good understanding of mental health issues in Virginia family cases as they are common to appear. They can come into play relating to custody and visitation determination and determination relating to support, and since these are integral parts of family law practice, it is important to ensure that a person’s lawyer has experience with these kinds of issues, because they could impact a person’s case.