Mental illness in parenting matters
Each year at least 1 in 5 Australians over the age of 16 experience mental illness. The most common mental illnesses are depression and anxiety and other forms include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
It is common for people to experience mental illness during difficult times in their lives such as separation and divorce.
In parenting matters before the Family Court the primary consideration is the best interests of the children and protecting them from harm, including psychological and emotional harm. Any distress or anxiety experienced by children as a result of a parent’s health issues are relevant considerations for the Court.
In circumstances where the mental health of a parent is being managed and their condition does not impact adversely on the children then there is no reason why the children should not spend time or live with that parent.
If the children are likely to be affected by a parent’s mental health issues then the time between that parent and the children is likely to be reduced or stopped. Usually gradually increasing time with the children as the parent’s health improves and the children become more settled, may be in the best interests of the children. Where the parent’s mental health is such that there is a risk to the children, then protecting the children from any risk will be the Court’s priority and that they may mean that contact with the children needs to be supervised or stopped.