Thursday, March 4, 2010

Emotional Problems and Child Custody: Hoarding

Any custody and visitation plan designed either by the parents or the court must always take into consideration the best interests of the children. One of the most complex areas of family law involves developing the best parenting plan where one of the parents suffers emotional or psychiatric problems.

If a parent with an emotional illness is receiving proper care and is stabilized, then custody and timeshare development goes smoothly. If the afflicted parent is not receiving care for their illness ,has gone off their medications or is not cooperating in their treatment, these events may lead to problems and safety concerns affecting the children.

Wikipedia defines Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding or disposophobia or the Messie mindset) as a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire (and failure to use or discard) a significant amount of possessions, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarding causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities, including mobility, cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping. A person who engages in compulsive hoarding is commonly said to be a "pack rat", in reference to that animal's apparent fondness for material objects.

Hoarding directly affects the health and safety of children visiting or residing in the residence. Dealing with this disorder may be complicated by the healthy parent not wanting to create turmoil intervening particularly if the child or children are protective of the afflicted parent. An example might be where a child living with the hoarder takes on the role of parent for the hoarder and the younger children. Any effort by the noncustodial parent to remedy the health hazards in the house or remove the children from the home might be met with resistance not only by the hoarder but the children.

In these situations, it may be best for the police and child protective services (CPS) to assess the situation and to intervene for the children's welfare. If the authorities feel its justified to remove the children from the home, the non-custodial parent can work with the agency in charge to take temporary possession of the children. If the children are given emergency placement with the the non-custodial parent, then it is wise for that parent to seek emergency protective orders in the family law courts as well as acquire physical custody of the children. The judge will have the power to issue orders to remedy the problem in the hoarder's home.

After you get into the family law courts, the judge can structure whatever orders are necessary to provide for the safety and well being of the child(ren). The court will normally require review dates to see if the hoarder is receiving the psychological care they need and that proper steps are taken to make the home clean and safe for everyone.

If the hoarder refuses treatment or is unwilling to rid the house of the dangerous accumulation of debris, the custody plan may radically change where the parent with the hoarding problem may only have limited and supervised visitation with the children at a location other than the home.

Hoarding is a very complex expression of mental illness. The parent suffering this disorder may need prolonged mental health treatment and supervision to insure that the house, now cleaned, does not return to its earlier condition.

Knowing you and your children's legal rights are critical to the proper determination of how best to deal with the development of a custody and visitation plan suited for the protection of the children. For these reasons, consulting with and retaining an attorney with extensive experience in family law will greatly assist you getting help from the courts and in the management of this complex custody problem.