Mental Health Issues in Child Custody
Mental Health Issues in Child Custody: A video podcast with Mark L. Scroggins
It is common to have mental health issues in child custody cases. There are mental health professionals who may become involved when either the mental health of the parents or children are at issue in the case. In this Scroggins Law Group video podcast, Mark L. Scroggins talks about how mental health professionals, often therapists, are used in child custody cases. Among the important issues in a child custody case, are whether a parent or child has an existing mental health diagnosis and whether it makes sense to ask for the court to order a psychological evaluation of a parent or child when there are mental health issues in child custody cases.
Before getting into the common occurrences and issues involving mental health in child custody cases, Mark shares his news about the new Dallas office at Energy Square, a convenient location for Scroggins Law Group clients in the area around the Park Cities Area, Lakewood, Lake Highlands, and East Dallas.
Mark L. Scroggins is Board-Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is the founding attorney at Scroggins Law Group, PLLC with attorneys and offices in Frisco, Dallas, and Plano, Texas. Call Scroggins Law Group at (214) 469-3100.
Use the player below to listen to the audio
Mental Health of Parents in Child Custody
Mark leads the discussion with his thoughts about how the Internet has a tool that has become a blessing and a curse. People going through a divorce may be reviewing articles online that give them ideas about the mental condition of their spouse. For example, Mark talks about people self-diagnosing their spouse as a narcissist, or as being borderline or having another type of personality disorder. Mark reminds us that these are very specific diagnoses and are serious, only to be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional.
With so many ads on television for the treatment of diagnosed mental health conditions, it is too easy for any layperson to make assumptions about the mental health of the other. Depression is another common problem that when untreated can be very dangerous and become a mental health issue in child custody.
Mark stresses that there is a very big difference between assuming a person has mental health issues and an actual diagnosis of a specific mental health condition, and whether the person is currently being treated for a diagnosed condition. If diagnosed and untreated, there can be a danger to a child.
If someone is being treated, there is no reason a parent might not be able to have the parent and child relationship anyone else would have. Mental health issues in child custody require that both parents play an active role in supporting the best interests of a child.
The next step is talking to your lawyer about whether a psychological evaluation needs to be done on the other party. Mark stresses caution, because if you request a psychological evaluation on the other parent, then there is a good chance they will request a psychological evaluation be ordered on you as well.
Who are the Mental Health Professionals Involved in Child Custody?
Depending on what is going on, you might need to request a psychiatric evaluation, much like a psychological evaluation. Mark notes that a psychiatrist can prescribe medications to treat diagnosed conditions while a psychologist uses talk therapy to work with their patients. He notes that while some people can be treated by their family physician, Mark recommends people work with a psychiatrist specialized in the treatment and care of mental health issues.
A common recent topic among spouses and mental health is Borderline Personality Disorder. Here is an article on point – Psychology Today: Borderline Personality and Custody
Psychologists, in addition to doing talk therapy, will also conduct testing using multiple choice questions and talk therapy, among other tools, to determine if the person fits within the diagnosis criteria in the DSM V manual guidelines.
If the person is diagnosed with a condition or disorder, do they need to be referred to a psychiatrist to determine if their treatment should include prescribed medications? If referred, does that psychiatrist also do talk therapy? Do they need to be referred to a licensed professional counselor or social worker? All of these issues highlight how complex mental health issues in child custody cases can become.
Learn more about the different types of mental health professionals and what they do in this article by Psych Central: Types of Mental Health Professionals
Mental Health of Children in Child Custody
Just as parents could need to undergo a psychological or psychiatric evaluation, the same may apply to the kids in a child custody case. With children’s mental health concerns, much of the information involves mental health on a spectrum. Many find the treatment of kids’ mental health more complex than in previous decades. They might need medication; they might need to participate in talk therapy. Additionally, a diagnosis today does not indicate a permanent condition in many cases. With psychological and psychiatric attention, many children’s’ mental health issues are manageable.
How to serve the best interests of a child’s mental health requires our attention to figure out what is going on if there is a concern, and what is the best course of action in decisions about parental rights and duties.
Mark talks about a trend in Collin County to use amicus attorneys instead of custody evaluators, where amicus attorneys can be quicker to arrive at recommendations about mental health issues. For example, Mark explains that many mental health professionals take the position that they are not going to testify about their recommendations.
When there may be several mental health concerns at issue, it can be time to ask the judge for a custody evaluation and it may be appropriate to ask for a psychiatrist, psychologist, or another mental health professional. Watch the full video to learn more as Mark explains these important issues.
How are Therapists and Other Mental Professionals Used in Child Custody Cases?
Here’s something to think about, did you and your spouse see a marriage counselor before or during your marriage? Mark leads with the reminder that when the door is opened to reviewing mental health, everything may be under examination. If a child has a therapist, because they are struggling with mom and dad are separated because of the divorce, and the child tells everything to the therapist, that can come to light.
Mark further explains using an example involving child custody evaluators and he explains the process through which they investigate and report their recommendations.
Psychiatrists and psychologists can come in and testify about their mental health conclusions and recommendations for treatment and medication if necessary.
Mental health experts can play a multitude of roles. Another may be the use of a mental health expert to review a child custody evaluation to see if it was done right if the results are stale, and what needs to happen next.
You can also listen to Scroggins Law Group podcasts on our Blog Talk Radio channel. This episode is Mental Health Issues in Child Custody with Attorney Mark L. Scroggins.