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Mental instability of a spouse

"Is my spouse mentally unstable to look after our child?"

This question is raised time and time again in divorce matters. One party will allege that he or she should be given care of the child / children due to a spouse being mentally unstable.

One of the most common forms of a spouse being proven to be unfit to have care of a child is when there is serious abuse of alcohol or drugs. This can usually be proven quite easily by way of evidence. A history of being admitted in and out of rehabilitation centres is one of the ways of proving a history of substance abuse. Sometimes drug and alcohol abuse lead to criminal convictions too, e.g. being arrested for drug possession or drunken driving.

However it is more difficult usually to prove that somebody is mentally unfit to have care of a child when there is no abuse of alcohol or drugs. Usually the best way to prove that somebody is mentally unfit would be by means of a proper report by a clinical psychologist who is qualified in this field. One is entitled to request this in a divorce mater when you believe your spouse is unfit.

The clinical psychologist would normally have a few sessions with the client. People often suffer from severe emotional trauma when there is a divorce, sometimes more so when they are separated from their spouse and are left with a loss of family stability or financial stability.

The clinical psychologist would also request a meeting with the children and the client together. It would be evident then exactly if and what is lacking in the relationship between the parents and children. Sometimes due to the lack of routine and discipline in the household due to the emotional trauma suffered by a parent due to the divorce the psychologist may recommend long term therapy for the parent. Children growing up in a home with an emotionally unstable parent sometimes grow up with psychological problems.

In one of my matters I was acting for the man. There had been a breakup and the four children were all living with his soon-to-be ex-wife. The man had moved out of the matrimonial home. The lady was according to my instructions continually shouting at the children. There was a domestic worker there too who claimed that the children were always left with her while she was out with her new boyfriend.

The situation got so bad that I advised my client to call the social services in. The social services were shocked after investigating the matter. They got to the house and heard the mother shouting at the children and insisted the matter be referred to a clinical psychologist. The clinical psychologist eventually concluded that the mother was too mentally unstable to look after the children.

The children should always come first in a divorce matter. Their best interests should be taken into account. If there is the slightest sign that a parent is mentally unstable, the matter should be pointed out to the authorities. A mentally unstable parent is unfit to look after children.

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