Mental Illness and Parenting
Hello, I am Anna Troitschanski and I am a lawyer with Feldstein Family Law Group.
A topic that often comes up when I am meeting with clients for an initial consultation is how mental health can affect parenting, and today I want to discuss this topic briefly with you.
Now, the ground rules: I am not a doctor. I don’t even play one on TV. So I am not going to go into an analysis of mental health with you. I just want to talk about how these issues may affect parenting. So, here it goes.
Your spouse has a mental illness, and you think that this will help you get the children, right? Well, maybe, but it’s not that simple. First of all, we need to know if your spouse actually has a mental illness, such as whether a professional has properly diagnosed your spouse. Oh, and even if you are a professional, you cannot diagnose your spouse. Sorry, but you are too emotionally involved. So the first step is knowing what mental illness your spouse may have. If there is a diagnosis, the next question is whether your spouse agrees with the diagnosis, or is in denial. If you yourself have a mental illness, and think this will negatively affect your ability to have your children spend meaningful time in your care, this point is key. You see, most mental illnesses, properly treated, may not be a barrier to being an effective parent. So, be proactive and seek out some help.
Next, you need to know what recommended treatment your spouse has received from his or her treating physician. Basically, has he or she been given some medication to take, counseling, a combination of the two, or something else? This does not mean self-medicating, unless that is what your doctor has told you to do. You have to be serious about your treatment. For some individuals, mental illness may be with you for life, so it is not a quick fix.
An undiagnosed illness in a parent, or a parent who is in denial about a diagnosis, cannot be treated and that could spell trouble. A judge will identify a mental illness as a potential problem, but there is frequently a solution to every problem. As such, if you take your health into your own hands, get a proper diagnosis, and then follow through with the proper treatment, the “problem” could be eliminated. If you are serious about your treatment, then a judge can believe you will be serious about everything else.
The other piece of good news is that organizations such as CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, are doing groundbreaking work to lessen the stigma of mental health issues.
I’m Anna Troitschanski. Thank you for watching today. If you need more information and wish to schedule a consultation, please visit our website or contact our office at 905-581-7222.