Keeping Up with the Kardashian Divorce: Mental Health in Family Law Cases

Category: Family Law

As an Arizona State Bar Certified Specialist in family law matters in Arizona, I cannot help being pulled into the news of the Kardashian/West divorce case, including the allegations of mental health.

Arizona is a “no fault divorce” state, meaning any allegations of wrong doing, adultery, abuse, etc. are irrelevant when the Court is considering the divorce, spousal support, and dividing up the assets and debts.  However, if there are children involved, suddenly many issues that would otherwise be irrelevant become center stage in the divorce.

  1. R. S. § 25-403 (A)(5), requires that the trial judge consider “the mental and physical health of all individuals involved.”

Just as is occurring in the Kardashian/West divorce, parents will often bring up allegations of mental health concerns involving the other parent.  Judges must then sift through the evidence to determine if the allegations are valid.

Often, the Judge (who has a law degree, and not a medical or doctorate of psychology degree) is then forced to make a determination if the allegations are such that a parent’s rights to their own children should be limited.

In some cases, the allegations of mental health are old and outdated, and the Court will give them very little weight when considering the evidence.  It would certainly be relevant for the Judge to consider the behavior of both parents since an alleged incident.  For example, if Parent A is suddenly concerned regarding a mental health incident from five years ago, but Parent B can show that he or she has been left as the care provider of the children by the other parent over the last five years, the Judge may conclude that Parent A’s sudden concern is not a true concern, but rather a convenient digging up of the past.

Parents with mental health issues should not give up in their fight for custody.  However, such fight may need to include an expert witness with a medical or psychology degree.  Take a case, for example, in which a Psychiatrist comes in at trial and testifies that the patient experienced a mental health event, but that the patient is now on medication and stabilized, and fully able to parent.   The Judge may properly conclude, that just as a parent with untreated diabetes is a danger to the child (could pass out while driving due to low blood sugar), such parent when properly treated with insulin and working with a medical provider should be fully able to parent.  Similarly, a parent with past mental heath issues that is now fully compliant and stabilized with a medication regiment and working with a Psychiatrist, may also be fully able to parent.

Mental health issues by either parent can make divorces complicated, and may require lawyers with specific experience with similar cases.  If you are involved in a divorce, legal separation, or annulment case or other family law case, and if you have determined that you need experienced legal representation, please call 480 733-6800 and ask to speak with Douglas C. Gardner, or visit our website at: