- Published: Monday, 26 January 2015 17:40
Child custody cases in Washington, DC can be among the most emotionally draining issues in all of family law. While a divorce can be difficult to get through, child custody fights can be particularly brutal. This is especially true when one of the parents is suspected of having a mental health concern.
Many parents suspect their child’s mother or father may have a serious mental condition, but he or she has never been officially diagnosed. If you are concerned your child’s other parent has a mental illness, which causes you to question their fitness to have custody of your child, you should raise this concern with your Washington, DC child custody attorney.
While you may need some documented evidence of his or her mental health issues to convince a family court judge to take action, it does not require the person to have already been diagnosed with a specific psychiatric condition. If you are able to identify past or present conduct which calls into question his or her mental state, this may be enough. Having witnesses to discuss issues that have arisen in the past may also be helpful.
It is also not necessary for you to know from which mental health condition your child’s other parent be suffering. Your attorney can work with an expert such as a psychologist or psychiatrist to help substantiate your claims.
Even if a judge is unsure, and not willing to order your child’s other parent to go for an exam, he or she may be willing to order all parties involved to see a custody evaluator with the Department of Behavioral Health for the District of Columbia. This is true even if you do not have any mental health issues. Basically this serves as a way to get the other parent evaluated without appearing to single out any one parent. The judge can justify this order because the main standard in DC child custody cases is to make sure any decision is supported by adequate evidence that it is in the best interests of the child.
In addition to a mental health evaluation, it may be necessary for all parties to be interviewed by a child custody specialist so he or she can make a report to the judge. If you child’s mother or father doesn't want to be evaluated, and refuses to comply with all court orders, your attorney can file a show cause asking he or she be held in contempt of court. If he or she is still unwilling to comply after a show cause hearing, or show he or she has tried to comply but couldn't through no fault of him or herself, the court can use this to grant you custody in some situations.
While there is nothing easy about this process, you want to make sure your attorney has dealt with these issues before involving a complex child custody matter, and can work with you get you the best results possible. On the other hand, not saying anything can make the situation much worse as you and your child will have to deal the other parent’s mental health issues for many years to come.
If you need help with a child custody matter in Washington, DC, contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC for a full and confidential consultation by calling (202) 596-5716.