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Family Law Blog

How Does Mental Health Affect My Pittsburgh Family Law Case?

Published: Aug 30, 2019 in Family Court, Family Law, Legal Blog
PA mental health family law

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

Your mental health is every bit as important as your physical well-being, and we’re fortunate to live in a time when there are treatments and therapies that address these issues. Still, no matter how diligent and responsible you are in getting the care you need, your mental state can be a source of dispute in a Pittsburgh family law case. While the law may provide advantages by offering some protections based on your condition, there may be some drawbacks as state statutes seek to protect others that could be affected by mental health-related issues.

Just as you trust your physician to assist with your mental well-being, you can rely on Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC to fight for your rights. We’re prepared to advocate on your behalf in a divorce, and we’ll advise you in any proceedings involving the interests of minor children.

Please call (412) 471-5100 to set up a consultation with a Pittsburgh family law attorney today.

Asset Division and Alimony in Divorce

The Pennsylvania dissolution of marriage statute allows for both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. As such, any issues regarding your mental state will not prevent you from legally ending your marriage. However, it may impact two of the primary determinations in divorce proceedings:

Property Division

Any assets that you acquired during your marriage are subject to equitable distribution between both parties. Marital property would include:

  • Real estate;
  • Bank accounts;
  • Vehicles;
  • Investment accounts;
  • Certain pensions; and;
  • Any other items you’ve obtained since your wedding day.

The key in property division is the term “equitable,” which refers to fairness and justice in the eyes of the law. The statute doesn’t require an even 50-50 split. This provision can be an advantage to someone with a mental issue, since equity may favor your interests. For instance, certain medical conditions can affect your employment options and ability to support yourself. Equitable principles may allow you a larger share of marital property to account for this scenario.

Alimony

A divorce court approaches the issue of alimony first by determining whether it’s necessary, and then assessing what’s reasonable under the circumstances. There are 17 different factors listed in the statute. Most touch on employability and self-sufficiency, and some directly address mental and physical health.

In applying the 17 factors, it’s possible that a judge will allow alimony as necessary and increase the amount to what would be reasonable. Convincing the court to enter an appropriate award requires solid proof and a sound legal strategy in divorce proceedings.

Issues Related to Minor Children

Care and support for minor children are also primary issues in divorce, but they’re not limited to dissolution of marriage. If paternity has been established, Pennsylvania laws on custody and visitation still apply. Whether part of a divorce case or a separate proceeding, the paramount consideration is the child’s best interests. There are numerous factors listed in the statute, including one directed at a parent’s mental condition.

Still, a court must balance all of the items in the child’s best interests statute. So a mental condition may have little or no bearing custody and visitation. Plus, it’s rare that your health would ever result in the termination of your parental rights. It may lead a judge to determine that one of the various forms of custody would be more appropriate under the circumstances. Pennsylvania law provides for:

  • Legal custody, which involves making important decisions on raising the child; and,
  • Physical custody, referring to where the child resides.

Each form of custody can be a sole, shared, partial, or supervised arrangement, depending on what’s in the best interests of your child.

Reach Out to a Pittsburgh Family Law Attorney for Assistance

If you’re involved in legal proceedings and there are issues regarding your mental health, Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC will be at your side to help navigate complex challenges. We’ll fight to ensure you get what’s fair and reasonable in divorce, and we’ll aggressively defend your rights as a parent.

Please contact us at (412) 471-5100 or visit us online to set up a consultation.