In this article, you will learn…
- How to handle situations in which one parent suffers from mental health or substance abuse issues.
- How moving affects custody agreements.
- How child support is addressed while a case is ongoing.
- And more…
Can A Spouse Or Co-Parent Be Compelled To Submit To A Mental Health Evaluation?
The short answer to this question is: Yes, your spouse or co-parent may be compelled to submit to a mental health evaluation. In order for a mental health evaluation to be ordered by the Court, you must file a Motion with the Court requesting that the Court order the other party to undergo an evaluation. It is not guaranteed that the Court will order the other party to submit to a mental health evaluation, absent emergency circumstances or other proof that a mental health issue requires a review. Typically, a mental health issue that could affect a child’s safety or well-being is a compelling reason for the Court to order a mental health evaluation. Of course, the Court’s determination of whether a mental health evaluation is merited will depend on the facts of each case.
What Can A Parent Do Regarding Custody When The Other Parent Has Substance Abuse Issues?
Unfortunately, many parents deal with substance abuse issues and these issues frequently come up in divorce and custody matters. Substance abuse issues can cause great concern for that parent’s ability to care for their child or make sound judgments. Oftentimes, the other parent will seek certain safeguards or protective measures from the Court to ensure that the other parent’s substance abuse issues do not negatively affect their child.
Similar to mental health evaluations, you may ask the Court to order the other party to submit to a substance abuse evaluation. The Court will ultimately have to decide if the assessment is appropriate based on the facts of the case and evidence provided.
Should your case go to trial, you must be able to articulate your concerns to the Court and provide proof of the other party’s substance abuse issues. Examples that may be used to demonstrate the other party’s substance abuse issues are their statements (particularly written statements) to you or others, the other party’s behavior which you or others have personally witnessed and social media posts by the other party if they are suggestive of substance abuse. These examples may be particularly relevant if they evidence substance abuse while the other party has the child in their care, as this would likely give the Court concern for the child’s safety and well-being while with the other party.
Are Custody Agreements Permanent Or Can They Be Changed?
Child custody determinations are never “permanent” and always subject to modification. When parents decide on a custody agreement, they do so with the child’s best interests in mind given the circumstances that exist at the time the agreement is entered into. However, in the months or years after the agreement is entered into, there may be triggering events in the child’s life that cause parents to come back and reevaluate custody in light of the new circumstances.
For example, when a child is born, if the parents are separated and want to have a custody agreement, they might agree that while the child is not in school, a particular custody arrangement might be in the child’s best interest. Then, when the child reaches a certain age and is ready to enter school, both parties could come back and revisit the custody arrangement to determine where the child should go to school and what custody arrangement is in their best interests. It is not uncommon for one or both parents to feel that the custody arrangement should be modified when circumstances change pertaining to the child.
What Happens Regarding Custody If One Of The Parents Wants To Move?
Any relocation, especially out of State, can be a significant issue with custody cases. Generally, when one parent relocates out of State, it triggers the material change requirement for the existing Custody Order to be modified.
In relocation cases, the physical custody schedule will often need to be modified because it is no longer viable with the parent’s new location. For example, if the Custody Order provides that each parent has one week on and one week off, this schedule would likely not be viable if one parent relocates and now lives several hours away from the other parent. In this case, the parties would have to agree on a new schedule or, if they cannot agree, the Court would have to fashion a new physical custody schedule for them.
In some cases, parents may be able to avoid custody modification litigation if they know ahead of time that they may be relocating to another State. For example, if the parties enter into a custody agreement knowing that one party will be relocating out of State within 6 months, the parties may choose to include a custody schedule which kicks in after the move occurs. This way, the parties can address that issue head-on at the initial stages of their custody negotiation, instead of having an agreement which they will need to revisit in only a few months once the other parent relocates.
Can The Other Parent Be Ordered To Pay Child Support While The Case Is Ongoing?
Yes, the Court can order child support during the pendency of the divorce or custody case. This is frequently referred to as “pendente lite” child support. Typically, the parties will agree on a pendente lite child support amount or the Court can schedule a pendente lite hearing to determine issues such as child support and visitation. Any pendente lite child support ordered by the Court can be revisited by the Court at the final merits hearing in the case, at which point the Court would make a long-term decision regarding child support.
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