If you have been through a
child custody case involving your child’s other parent you may have stopped to
ask yourself at various points in the case whether the opposing party
has something “wrong” with him or her. You may have even commented
to your attorney that he or she seems to be acting strangely in filing
the lawsuit in the first place. It may surprise you to learn that many
people involved in family law cases suffer either from
mental illness or personalities disorders. While I couldn’t say that you experienced
this type of situation it is not uncommon.
What is a personality disorder?
A personality disorder is a medical term that describes people who have
exaggerated personality characteristics- to the point where those characteristics
begin to dominate who he or she is. Their ability to function on a day
to day basis will have become extremely limited as a result. This is opposed
to a mental illness which encompasses not only a person’s mental
state but also their mood, relations to other people as well as their
activities of daily living. The most important aspect of a personality
disorder or mental illness is how each of these conditions impacts the
lives of the people in the immediate vicinity of the suffering individual.
Considering that coming into contact with a mentally ill person on the
street can be a challenge, your ability to parent and possibly engage
in litigation with one can be extremely taxing.
Characteristics of a person with mental illness or a personality disorder
If you have just been served with a divorce or child custody
modification suit seemingly out of nowhere then you may have a mentally ill person
or at least an opposing party with a personality disorder as an opposing
party. Unfortunately if you identify the traits of a personality disorder
sufferer in your child’s other parent you may be in for a long and
drawn out case. These folks do not live their lives based on reality or
objective fact. Their own sense or right and wrong is shaped by a reality
that is only apparent in their own minds.
What kind of behavior can you identify to have a good idea as to whether
or not a person has a personality disorder? For starters, if your opposing
party has an extremely unbending view of the case and is unwilling to
negotiate or move off of his or her previously held opinions that is a
strong sign of a person suffering from a personality disorder. While I
am not saying that every person who holds strong opinions has a personality
disorder, I would say that if you are willing to compromise on a certain
issue but have never seen your opposing party be willing to do so that
may be time to speak to your attorney.
Another characteristic that I have seen in opposing parties that have mental
stability issues is deflection towards their own shortcomings. If your
opposing party is volleying accusations at you of being unhinged mentally
or dangerous or anything in between this is a deflection method to keep
you from identifying their own personality disorders and possible mental
illness. If he or she believes they are under attack or threat from you,
your attorney or anyone else they can become extremely angry and will
say or do anything to protect themselves and their worldview.
Finally, in the world of a person with a mental illness or personality
disorder, everything is either black or white. As an attorney we operate
in the “grey” in most every case that we are involved in.
So you can see from an attorney’s perspective how a person who lives
in an all or nothing world can really complicate a divorce or child custody
case. Their position is completely right and your position is completely
wrong. Your child would be provided with the greatest life known to mankind
if allowed to live with him or her. Your child would be doomed to live
a life of squalor and difficulty is allowed to live with you primarily.
There is nothing in between either extreme with people like this.
Once a case gets moving identifying mental illness in a client or opposing
party can be difficult
From an attorney’s perspective it can often times be difficult to
pinpoint when something is wrong with a client. Certainly we represent
people from all walks of life and backgrounds so it would not be fair,
or frankly in our area of expertise, to pick out individuals as being
mentally incompetent. As a result, a case is flied and the litigation
process begins and the sort of characteristics that we would normally
associate with a person who is suffering mentally are not observed in time.
As a result, a mentally incompetent person can file a child custody modification
based on perceptions or thoughts that are not based in reality. This is
what I meant earlier when I noted that if you’ve been involved in
child custody case before you may have stopped and pondered whether or
not your opposing party was living in the same world that you were. Judges
are not exposed to either you or the other party to a sufficient degree
to identify mental incompetency. With all this said a long, drawn out
and expensive case can result due to the unchecked behavior of a person
who is not healthy from a mental standpoint.
Tomorrow’s blog post: Managing a case with an opposing party who
has a mental illness
While being involved in a child custody case where the opposing party has
a mental illness is not easy, it can be managed with planning. If you
understand how he or she approaches the case then you can set your own
expectations appropriately. The attorneys with the
Law Office of Bryan Fagan will continue to discuss this subject with you in tomorrow’s blog post.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about opposing parties with
mental illness or personality disorders please do not hesitate to
contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed
family law attorneys are available six days a week to speak to you about your case
and to answer any questions you have in a free of charge consultation.