When one spouse suffers from a disease or mental illness, they may wonder if the other spouse can use that information against them in a child custody case. New Jersey courts hold a child’s best interest as the forefront of their proceeding, and the child’s best interests is the only thing that matters. In some cases, a parent’s mental or physical health could become relevant when determining child custody.
For example, if one parent suffers from severe mental health issues and those issues have had a negative impact on the child’s well-being, the court will consider that information. To use that information against the other parent, medical records which prove that a dangerous condition exists, must be requested and presented to the court.
The Use of a Psychologist
In some cases, a family law attorney may use a psychologist to prove or disprove that a person’s mental health condition can harm the child’s well-being. To make their recommendations, the psychologist would need access to the parent’s medical records. These records can also be requested to refute claims of mental or physical illness.
The Difficulties of Requesting Medical Records
Requesting a person’s medical records is not as simple as it seems. In fact, attorneys will have several complex legal issues to overcome before they can access a person’s private health record. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a health care provider cannot disclose private medical (including mental health) information to a third party unless they have prior written consent from their patient.
While this privacy protection exists, a parent cannot use HIPAA as a way to avoid submitting their medical records if they are requested by the courts.
What Medical or Mental Health Issues Could Affect Child Custody?
There is no specific list of mental health or medical conditions that could limit a person’s custodial rights or visitation with their child. Some instances where visitation and custody may be affected include:
- Severe mental illness that makes one parent unsuitable to care for or raise the child.
- Mental illness that poses a risk to the child or the parent – such as suicidal, uncontrolled Schizophrenia, etc.
- A health condition that makes the parent unable to care for the child.
Just because one parent suffers from a medical or mental health condition does not mean they are automatically unable to obtain custody of their children. If the parent can prove that they can still care for their children and that they pose no risk to the child’s mental or physical health, the courts are likely to still grant some form of custody and visitation to that parent – regardless of the medical condition.
Get Answers to Your Custody Concerns by Speaking with an Attorney
If you have questions regarding your child custody case, contact the attorneys at Romanowski Law Offices today. We can assess your case and help determine if medical or mental health records will play a role in your case. Call us at 732-603-8585 now or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.