When a child is diagnosed with a personality disorder, parents are faced with many difficult decisions regarding care and schooling for the child. If you add a divorce to the mix, the challenges only magnify. Many children blame themselves for the divorce of their parents, but children with personality disorders may not be able to comprehend the divorce proceedings nor understand the custody decisions that must be made. Personality disorders can have a big impact on custody decisions and a lasting impact on the child's life.
Some of the common personality disorders that can affect child custody decisions include borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. Although some of these disorders can occur in young children, borderline personality disorder presents more in adolescents and can present as impulsive and reckless behavior, as well as problems with regulating emotion and thought. Borderline personality disorder can be treated, and can be diagnosed through a medical examination by an experienced mental health care professional.
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include: fear of abandonment, unstable or changing relationships, unstable self-image and struggles with identity or self, suicidal behavior or self-harm, and constant feelings of worthlessness or sadness. If these symptoms present in a child, it is important to take them to a mental health professional for evaluation. This is especially crucial in a divorce, as the judge may base their custody discussion on the availability of care for the child.
In addition, children who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder by a mental health professional will need additional care and access to treatment. In recent years, childhood bipolar disorder has been called "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder." This can present in children and young adults as drastic mood swings that can be brief or last for up to several weeks. The episodes of manic behavior (highs) or depression (lows) can be managed with proper medication and therapy. A judge who is concerned about the best interests of the child will likely award custody to the parent who can provide continued treatment or continued access to the mental health care professional. Work with a family law attorney who is versed in the intricacies of the mental health care field and who will help guide you through the challenges you may face when seeking custody of a child with a personality disorder.
Lastly, children with depression and other disorders must be handled delicately during a divorce and custody dispute. Symptoms of depression include disinterest in school or other activities, pretending to be sick to remain close to a parent or other caregiver, and excessive worry that one parent may die or be taken from them. During divorce proceedings, children with depression may feel at fault, so it is important to hire a family law attorney with the requisite experience in dealing with mental health issues and psychological disorders. With the right legal guidance, the divorce process can be managed in a way that prioritizes the best interests of the child.