In the state of Florida, spouses may only divorce on one of two grounds: either the marriage is irretrievably broken, or one spouse is mentally incapacitated. In the case of mental incapacitation, a spouse must have been deemed such for a period of at least three years. To be mentally incapacitated means that a person lacks the ability to make independent legal decisions. For this reason, a court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent and protect his or her best interests in a divorce.
As is the case in any child custody litigation, the child’s best interests will be at the forefront of any custody and visitation schedule. Mental illness is a hot topic of debate in these family law matters. The simple presence of mental illness is not enough to cause a court to deny a parent custody. However, its effect on parenting ability will be taken into close consideration.
Florida courts may choose from a number of custody arrangements where mental health is an issue. They may deny overnight visitations or allow only supervised visitations. The incapacitated parent may be ordered to see a mental health professional on a regular basis and provide proof of said visits to the court. Finally, in cases where mental illness is so serious and unaddressed that it poses a risk to the child well-being, a court can deny visitation and opt to terminate parental rights.
Mental illness is sometimes difficult to gauge, but it can be an important factor in any family law case, including child custody. And, always remember not to put children in a potentially dangerous situation without making sure all available protections are in place first.