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Wheaton child custody lawyerApproximately one out of every five adults in the United States suffers from a mental illness. Anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder are some of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Although many people suffering from mental health issues are fully capable of being safe, loving parents, mental illness can influence child custody cases. In some situations, parents involved in a dispute about parental responsibilities or parenting time are required to undergo a mental health evaluation or psychological examination.

When Are Psychological Evaluations Required?

Illinois courts make all child custody decisions based on the child’s best interests. If the court has reason to believe that a parent’s mental health condition may pose a risk to the child, the court has the discretion to order psychological testing. If a parent believes that the other parent has psychological problems that may endanger the child, the parent can request a mental health evaluation as well. The court may approve or deny this request. Typically, if a parent requests that the other parent undergo a psychological exam, the parent who made the request is responsible for paying the fees associated with the exam.

What Happens During a Mental Health Examination?

During a mental health assessment, a qualified psychological evaluator such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker conducts an evaluation of a parent’s mental status and overall mental health. This process typically involves an interview during which the evaluator asks the parent questions about his or her mental health history as well as his or her thoughts, feelings, and actions. During the assessment, the evaluator may measure the parent’s cognitive skills, memory, and ability to think clearly. The evaluator may also gather information by observing the parent’s behavior. In some cases, psychological testing is used to determine whether or not a parent meets the diagnostic criteria for a certain mental illness. The results of the mental health evaluation will be used by the court in conjunction with other evidence during child custody determinations.

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Wheaton family law attorney for parenting plan enforcementIn Illinois, divorcing couples with children and unmarried parents who do not live together are asked to create a “parenting plan” that addresses the allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) and other issues related to the couple’s children. This plan will describe each parent’s rights and responsibilities and include information about how parenting time, sometimes referred to as visitation, will be divided between the two parents. The parents may decide on the terms of their parenting plan through negotiation, mediation, or collaborative law. If parents cannot reach an agreement about one or more terms, the court will order a plan that is based on the child’s best interests. Whether a parenting plan is the result of an agreement between the spouses or an allocation judgment handed down by the court, parents are expected to follow the plan.

Parents Must Comply With the Terms of the Parenting Plan

Parenting plans typically involve a number of different provisions, including those describing each parent’s responsibilities and the time that each parent will spend with the child. The plan may also include information about the child’s education, extracurricular activities, healthcare, religious or cultural upbringing, and how the child will be transported between the parents’ homes. 

One of the most common ways that parents may violate the terms of their parenting plan is by deviating from the parenting time schedule. Understandably, parents may sometimes need to make minor changes to their schedules to account for illnesses, unexpected work obligations, or other special circumstances. However, if a parent consistently fails to fulfill his or her parenting time obligations or refuses to allow the other parent to enjoy his or her parenting time, legal action may be necessary to enforce the terms of the parenting plan.

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