Children & Mental Health During Divorce | Martindale-Avvo

Ask Jennifer B.: What are your thoughts on kids’ mental well-being during a divorce?

Lately, there has been a significant emphasis on mental health both personally and professionally, with May recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month. People are now more open about their mental health issues and actively seeking treatment and therapy, reducing the stigma and associated negativity of the past. Even companies encourage their employees to prioritize their emotional and mental well-being, and rightfully so. But how is this playing out in court cases?

Mental Health Assistance During a Divorce

When couples are going through a divorce, mental health professionals are often an integral part of the equation. While lawyers focus on the legal aspects of divorce, the mental health counselor can address the changing emotions that often accompany a split. Moreover, they help with the transition from being part of a couple to being a single person again.

Mental health professionals can also assist with custody matters – helping parties navigate their changing roles with respect to their children and each other. Recently, there has been a trend to getting these professionals involved with not only the parents in custody situations, but assisting the children as well. While the best interests of the child test is still the guiding force for courts in making custody determinations, courts have traditionally focused on the competing rights of the litigants and less on the impact custody decisions have on the children.

The Importance of Help During Custody Battles

Since taking care of the mental health of children has been rapidly gaining attention – even Elmo on Sesame Street discusses mental health – it has become more of the norm now in custody matters to assure that kids are also enrolled in therapy while the family transitions from one unit to two different homes. Older children are sometimes required to attend therapy sessions with a parent to help overcome obstacles and to improve their relationship. And courts often listen to and are guided by therapists for children who are willing to provide an opinion.

Nonetheless, there is still a way to go until the impact of various custody scenarios on children can be determined. Litigants, lawyers and the courts usually view children as being fairly resilient and even better than their parents at weathering the change that divorce brings. The more focus that is brought on the well-being of children in divorce, the more that we can see the actual impact that various custody schedules have on children.

By way of example, parents usually want at least equally shared custody of their children, but whether this is best for a particular child’s well-being is not a given, nor is it a one size fits all determination. With the assistance of mental health professionals a court can determine if a child’s particular needs fits within their parents’ wants.

The Bottom Line: With Mental Health Prioritized, Families Can Thrive

With a greater focus on the mental health and fitness of all parties impacted in a divorce, children included, a court can better determine what is best for the particular family and craft orders that reflect these sentiments.

With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Jennifer Brandt’s practice includes all aspects of family law including divorce, custody, support, alimony, adoption, and guardianship matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition to family law litigation, she also negotiates prenuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements on behalf of clients. In addition to her busy practice, she’s a well-known legal commentator on national news networks including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, Court TV and local and regional television and radio.

If you have a family law issue or would like her to speak about legal issues, you can connect with Ms. Brandt at www.cozen.com.

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